“I have this dream,” Claire Magner says, looking around the partially renovated insides of the Sunset Temple. “I’m really gonna make this Claire World.” If all goes according to plan, the 300-seat meeting hall on Kansas Street may soon be North Park’s newest music venue. “It’s a very elegant place,” says Magner, “but it just transforms into anything you want — we were rockin’ with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. on Saturday night, then on Sunday morning we had church.”
Claire Magner, 44, is the Claire of Claire de Lune coffee shop, which straddles the northeast corner at University Avenue and Kansas Street. When she bought the building in 1997 from a group called the Odd Fellows, there was a glaring stipulation. Magner would be allowed to run her coffee shop and collect rents from the two retail spaces on the University Avenue side of the property (one is presently vacant; the other houses independent record shop Off the Record), but the Odd Fellows, an insular faith-based service organization, would retain the exclusive use of the Sunset Lodge upstairs and around the corner on Kansas, just as they had since they bought the building during the Great Depression. Two months ago, they relinquished the Lodge to Magner, although they still meet there three nights a week.
So far, Magner has updated the room’s decrepit sound system, put in stage lights, and refinished the stage area. She also added a giant projection screen. “This is ours,” she says of the venue, “and I don’t think anybody knows that.” And as for the warren of rooms downstairs in the 8000-square-foot basement, she says she’d like to convert all that into a classy jazz club. She has plans to apply for a beer-and-liquor license and says she’s been told she can have one as long as she doesn’t provide entertainment. In the meantime, while Magner and San Diego police and the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control hash out some kind of a conditional-use permit, Magner has let the room for weddings, a martial arts dojo, tango dancing, and concerts by locals such as the Silent Comedy. Joe Flammini (aka Java Joe) has been hosting shows there as well.
“This weekend was probably the loudest we’ve had,” Magner says. “It was so loud.” The Sunset Temple was designated by publisher/producer Kevin Hellman as the headliner stage for the San Diego Music Thing. In years past, the Music Thing has booked Claire de Lune as one of its area showcase venues. “There were probably 200 people in here Saturday night, and nobody in the neighborhood complained,” Magner says. But she also admits that she hasn’t really made her plans public yet. She’s applied for a construction loan, but the bottom line, she says, is the surrounding community. “I’m gonna have to see what my neighbors say. My neighbors can make or break me.”
3911 Kansas Street, North Park