“I remember Joe Hicks had bought the Zombie Lounge; he was one of the first promoters out west to pay me a decent guarantee,” says Scott H. Biram, who in 2002 was the first musician to perform at the 3519 El Cajon Boulevard venue currently known as the Void. “I kind of remember there was just a tin-shed room out the back door...he had taken one of the circular booths in the corner of the front room and turned it into a stage. Basically, he tore the seats out of it and put some plywood in the bottom. My equipment barely fit.” Biram returns to play the venue on Saturday, July 20.
In 2001, the locale was known as Little Equity, run by the operators of Crow Bar on Kettner Boulevard and staffed by a woman bartender notorious for keeping a heavy walking stick behind the bar to bash homeless guys caught using the bathroom as their personal bidet. Around a year later, new owner Joe Hicks renamed it the Zombie Lounge, recasting the bar with greaser-punk decor, expanding the back room with a giant wall fan, and introducing live music to the venue.
In 2003 the Zombie Lounge was temporarily renamed the Silver Dragon, after the large gaudy painting over a metal-stocked jukebox and operated by L.A. hipster-entrepreneur Heath Zuehlke. By 2005, Hicks had rehung the Zombie sign and reinstated the unisex bathrooms. Social D returned to the jukebox, and a portion of the old Aztec Bowl sign was mounted on one wall. Not even a car driving into the building (where the flyer window is now) could stem the sweaty tide of horror/rockabilly bands filling the stage several nights per week.
In summer 2008, Hicks sold the venue to Chris Heaney, who partnered with several bartenders from his North Park bar Kadan to come up with the reported $125,000 price tag. Heaney (one of the partners who purchased the Spirit in 1994 and transformed it into Brick by Brick) changed the name to Radio Room, enlarging the stage and installing a new sound system. By August 2010, the Radio Room had become Eleven, run by Scot Blair and Dennis Borlek (cofounders of Small Bar), who added rock memorabilia to the walls and embedded within the acrylic bar counter.
The bar was sold again in December 2012, with new owners Kacha and Neil Rajiv Dutta refashioning it as the Void. Blair, Borlek, and former Eleven manager Justin Bess moved on to downtown’s Monkey Paw Pub. Current Void bartender Sal Gallego (Some Girls), co-owner of Three-One G Records, has worked at most of the venue’s incarnations.
“I still wear both my black-and-white Zombie A-Go-Go shirts proudly,” says Scott H. Biram. “The next time I came back, they had torn down the shed out back and replaced it with a bigger room with a stage. I’m looking forward to getting back in there.”