“I couldn’t do it anymore.” After eight years, owner Jason Nascimento closed the doors to Portugalia, his Portuguese restaurant on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach. The last Live Wednesday was held there on May 18, with Francesca Valle, Kitten with a Whip, Katie Leigh and the Infantry, the Lovebirds, and Sydney Cohen.
Live Wednesdays ran for three years. It featured a lineup of all-woman bands or bands fronted by women. Nascimento says that girl-band night, as he calls it, was his idea. “Wednesday is a very difficult night [for business] because of the O.B. farmers’ market. I had to import my people. I was, like, what can I do? I have a lot of lesbian friends, and I thought, You know what? They’re clannish. I can do this. So, that’s how I got that thing going.”
But as popular as Live Wednesdays may have been, Nascimento says they were seldom profitable. “They were great, and there were lots of people in the restaurant, but I rarely ever passed a thousand dollars on those nights. And you can’t keep the doors open with that.”
At present, Nascimento, 35, is in the process of selling the facility, possibly to another restaurateur. Did the weak economy shutter Portugalia? No, he says. Rather, his eatery grew more and more out of step with a beach town that refused to mature.
“When I started eight years ago, Ocean Beach was coming up, trying to get rid of the riffraff, and now...it’s all head shops and dispensaries.” Nascimento claims to be weed-friendly. “But you can’t run a business on dispensaries and pot heads. Over time, that wore me down.”
But there was also a falling out within the Portuguese community, of which Nascimento is a blood member. “I didn’t get the support that I wanted. That still pisses me off.” He says the Portuguese turned a cold shoulder on Portugalia soon after the doors opened. “All they did was talk shit about my food or about my family. I’m talking about my own people here. One lady said, ‘I haven’t come to your restaurant because I don’t like your aunt. We used to work in the canneries.’ Dude,” he says, “that happened 40 years ago. Get over it.”
Beginning June 21, Live Wednesdays will move to Tuesday nights at the Ruby Room in Hillcrest and will feature many of the same lady-fronted bands. As for Nascimento, he plans to leave the area and start over in Northern California. “I feel like I’m letting people down,” he says, “but if I don’t quit now, it’s gonna kill me.”