"A guy saw me play on KUSI [TV] and called me up and asked to play Java Jo'z," says local singer-guitarist Josh Damigo. "I thought they went out of business." Java Joe's, the Ocean Beach coffeehouse credited with giving Jewel and Jason Mraz career-breaking exposure, closed in 2002. For the past year, some San Diego musicians have driven up I-15 to play Temecula's Java Jo'z.
"When I talk to people from San Diego, they always ask if there is any affiliation," says Java Jo'z owner Johnny Luevano. His business is a franchise; the parent company is San Antonio--based Medina, Inc. Luevano says there are 23 Java Jo'z up and running with another 160 set to open this year. Eventually, the Java Jo'z name will be phased out.
"We found we couldn't franchise 'java' anything," says Luevano. "There already is Java Juice, Java the Hut, and Hot Java. There are too many 'javas.' " He says all the Java Jo'z will be renamed Cuppy's.
Local solo artists such as Storrow, Terry Matsuoka, Jamie Robb, and Jordan Reimer and bands such as the Breaks and Nomis have made the trek to Temecula.
"I find I get most of my quality talent from San Diego," says Luevano.
But is it worth the drive for the artists? Damigo isn't so sure.
"If you want the dead-honest truth, unless you have the promotion to back you up, it's more of a community event than a show.... I wasn't paid. There were about 14 people there. The difficulty is the promotion.... If you're just invited to go up and play, I wouldn't go." As far as acoustic venues go, "It wasn't a Lestat's [coffeehouse], for sure. I would say it's more [similar to] Cosmos [Coffee Café in La Mesa]."
Java Jo'z charges $5 admission every night except for open-mike Wednesdays.