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Last summer, Marc Shannon opened the Avalon in North Park. His plans for the almost-100-year-old building included hosting bands in an all-age, alcohol-free environment. The building, once the site of a lumber mill (at 3925 Ohio Street), is zoned as “mercantile,” which allows for a 50-person capacity.

“We have plans to expand our capacity,” says Shannon, whose hope was to present shows for up to 500 patrons; his goal now is to obtain a permit for 150. He believes that the building’s age may help.

“The City of San Diego is interested in designating this as a historic landmark,” says Shannon. He says getting code exemptions is “very hard to do, but it can be done.”

He says 28 volunteers (mostly musicians) donated their time to get the place up and running last July.

“It was our goal that the Avalon would be run by and for musicians. Tim Graves [Silent Comedy singer-guitarist] was the driving force and reason Avalon made it this far.… I heard that in L.A. there are 300 all-age venues; San Diego only has 2 places with large stages [Soma and Epicentre]. We just lost two very good all-age venues recently; the Arts and Cultural Events Center in North Park and the Hot Monkey Love Cafe near SDSU both just went away.”

Shannon says city government and other forces work against all-age music spots.

“In L.A., the City goes out of its way to help; in San Diego everyone is afraid of doing something wrong. The first week I opened, I was raided by the police. They said they had an anonymous tip that we were running a porn ring out of here. I told them if they even found so much as a Sears catalog with bra ads here I would be guilty. We were adamant about making this a family-safe place.…

“This is one of the worst cities for an independent artist to try and start a career. There is a lack of venues. And reporters here are to blame too.”

The Avalon will host three bands as part of the North by North Park festival on August 2. Guitarist Doug McCarron appears every Wednesday night.

– Ken Leighton

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