The Calypso Cafe, which opened in Leucadia in 1995 and featured music seven nights a week for most of its existence, held its final show this New Year’s Eve.
Located in a converted house, the Highway 101 restaurant represented one of the last vestiges of funky Leucadia. It was the unofficial home base for singer/songwriter Jack Tempchin (“Peaceful Easy Feelin,” “Already Gone,” “Slow Dancin’”) who played there weekly since the ’90s.
Candye Kane, Sue Palmer, Jeff Moore, Eve Selis and Cactus Twang, and Semisi and Sons were regular performers at the dinner club.
“That was a great place for musicians and songwriters,” says Tom Yearsley, who played there with his Paladins. “There was no television set to compete with. And for most of the first many years there was no talking allowed. When you sat there, you listened to music. It didn’t used to be amplified. It brought the audience right up close to the artist.”
Founder Gil Knafo ran the Calypso continuously until a September 2009 kitchen fire forced him to close. He says things weren’t the same when he reopened two years later.
“I spent too much to rebuild,” says Knafo. “Then, when we reopened, people would come in but not spend any money.” Knafo owned the property, but he says last year he started having trouble keeping up with the mortgage. “The bank put the property in foreclosure and sold the note six months ago. The new landlord let me stay rent-free until December 31.”
“Everyone is devastated by the closing,” he says. “All the musicians are very sad. Before us, nobody mixed music and food [in North County].”
Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control suspended the liquor license of the 1280-capacity Show Palace in Oceanside on December 20. Since it opened in 2000, the all-ages venue drew big weekend crowds with live Latin bands and recently started hosting hip-hop events, including shows by national headliners E-40 and Talib Kweli. According to ABC administrator Melissa Ryan, the indefinite suspension will be lifted when the owners prove the Show Palace regularly serves food and keeps better records to prove it sells at least 50 percent of its sales in food.
The suspension follows an October 26 multi-agency raid on the venue, when patrons were told to leave for two hours while authorities investigated the business.
But another violation that must also be corrected for the liquor license to be reactivated may be difficult for the 13-year-old restaurant/nightspot to surmount: Ryan says that while her ABC investigators were there, they found that live music could be heard outside the building. Even though there are no residences nearby and there were no complaints about loud noise, Ryan says that the Show Palace must now keep the sound of music from escaping.
Show Palace owner Jaun Cortes did not want to comment for this story.
“They are licensed as a restaurant but they are operating as a dancehall,” says a professional who deals with the ABC. “[The owner] is trying to put a square peg in a round hole. It looks he will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into being a restaurant.”