4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Copacabana clubbed

Music and passion aren't always the thing

Tara Cardenas back in the Mesopotamia days
Tara Cardenas back in the Mesopotamia days

Tara Cardenas ran an all-ages venue in Lemon Grove called Mesopotamia in the mid ’90s. Two decades later, her ongoing support of local music led her to open a bar featuring local bands. Her tenure as a bar owner lasted exactly one day: February 16. “I had my grand opening and my grand closing on the same night,” says Cardenas.

Mesopotamia's opening day, 1995

The story begins in 1995. “I had a coffee house when this band asked us if they could play. I didn’t have permits but I didn’t want to tell them no.” Word spread and soon other bands heard about Mesopotamia. “Soon we had the Chula Vista straight-edge scene playing…. I had a 45 [RPM single record] from the [North County band] Boilermaker. I sent them a letter to their P.O. Box telling them I had a café and I’d like them to play even though I didn’t have a P.A. They got back to me. They told me my letter was the only letter they ever got in their P.O. Box. They brought a huge North County following down. They helped me book a bunch of other bands. We got bands from back East.”

The problem, she says, is that she was more of a music fan than an entrepreneur. “A lot of times they wanted to do free shows. People were asking for cups of ice water. We weren’t making any money.”

After two years... “One night I came and there was a note on the door from the City of Lemon Grove telling me to cease-and-desist or face fines, penalties, or imprisonment.” Mesopotamia was over.

“As it turned out, a number of parents wrote letters to the city saying we provided a safe place for their kids,” says Cardenas. “The city wanted to negotiate to keep me open. But I didn’t have the money they wanted me to spend to purchase permits. Besides, by that time I was exhausted. Sometimes we were open five nights a week.”

Cardenas continued her successful food-concession business. (“I’m the Weenie Queen of the Spring Valley Swap Meet.”) Recently, while looking for a home base for her hot dog business, she discovered the Copacabana bar.

“The owner used to come to the swap meet. He wanted to sell the business. It’s on the same block as the Mesopotamia. I saw that this brewery called 13 Point was opening. I thought maybe Lemon Grove was changing and we should give it a try.”

The Copacabana, she says, is mostly known for Mexican karaoke and DJs. “I thought we needed bands in here. I went up with a pad and magic marker to a rehearsal space in Kearny Mesa and wrote signs saying I was looking for bands.”

Hyperactive Slackers at the Copacabana, one night only

That triggered a call from the band Hyperactive Slackers, who offered to play her first night.

“I wanted to change the name [from ‘Copacabana’] but they came up with this really cool poster that had Barry Manilow, so I decided to keep it.” But the “hideous colors” had to go. “It was lime green, yellow and turquoise. We repainted it grey and red.” That first night only drew about 15 people.

“But the vibe was good,” she says. “We went in and started painting. The place was only open one or two nights a week and it was mostly just the owner and his wife working it…. We had wanted to sign the lease for weeks but they kept blowing us off. When the leasing agent finally gave it to us, it turned out it was only for 14 months, not three years. The rent was to go up after two months.

"Plus, they wanted a $7000 deposit. This was all not what we had agreed on. They got mad because we painted, so we all agreed to just give them an extra $2500 and just walk away. We decided not to sue because it was too much stress. We just decided to let it go.... We don’t know if it was a scam. [The owner] doesn’t speak English and for sure he can’t read it. But I guess it could have been an honest mistake.”

She says Copacabana is still open with the old owner. Meanwhile, the old Mesopotamia is now a hair-and-nail salon. “There are six hair-and-nail salons on the same Lemon Grove street. It’s the hair-and-nail capital of East County.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Tony Bennett’s first and last dramatic performance

Why is it called The Oscar?
Next Article

In the thick of it with Edward Elgar

Mainly Mozart grants a musical wish
Tara Cardenas back in the Mesopotamia days
Tara Cardenas back in the Mesopotamia days

Tara Cardenas ran an all-ages venue in Lemon Grove called Mesopotamia in the mid ’90s. Two decades later, her ongoing support of local music led her to open a bar featuring local bands. Her tenure as a bar owner lasted exactly one day: February 16. “I had my grand opening and my grand closing on the same night,” says Cardenas.

Mesopotamia's opening day, 1995

The story begins in 1995. “I had a coffee house when this band asked us if they could play. I didn’t have permits but I didn’t want to tell them no.” Word spread and soon other bands heard about Mesopotamia. “Soon we had the Chula Vista straight-edge scene playing…. I had a 45 [RPM single record] from the [North County band] Boilermaker. I sent them a letter to their P.O. Box telling them I had a café and I’d like them to play even though I didn’t have a P.A. They got back to me. They told me my letter was the only letter they ever got in their P.O. Box. They brought a huge North County following down. They helped me book a bunch of other bands. We got bands from back East.”

The problem, she says, is that she was more of a music fan than an entrepreneur. “A lot of times they wanted to do free shows. People were asking for cups of ice water. We weren’t making any money.”

After two years... “One night I came and there was a note on the door from the City of Lemon Grove telling me to cease-and-desist or face fines, penalties, or imprisonment.” Mesopotamia was over.

“As it turned out, a number of parents wrote letters to the city saying we provided a safe place for their kids,” says Cardenas. “The city wanted to negotiate to keep me open. But I didn’t have the money they wanted me to spend to purchase permits. Besides, by that time I was exhausted. Sometimes we were open five nights a week.”

Cardenas continued her successful food-concession business. (“I’m the Weenie Queen of the Spring Valley Swap Meet.”) Recently, while looking for a home base for her hot dog business, she discovered the Copacabana bar.

“The owner used to come to the swap meet. He wanted to sell the business. It’s on the same block as the Mesopotamia. I saw that this brewery called 13 Point was opening. I thought maybe Lemon Grove was changing and we should give it a try.”

The Copacabana, she says, is mostly known for Mexican karaoke and DJs. “I thought we needed bands in here. I went up with a pad and magic marker to a rehearsal space in Kearny Mesa and wrote signs saying I was looking for bands.”

Hyperactive Slackers at the Copacabana, one night only

That triggered a call from the band Hyperactive Slackers, who offered to play her first night.

“I wanted to change the name [from ‘Copacabana’] but they came up with this really cool poster that had Barry Manilow, so I decided to keep it.” But the “hideous colors” had to go. “It was lime green, yellow and turquoise. We repainted it grey and red.” That first night only drew about 15 people.

“But the vibe was good,” she says. “We went in and started painting. The place was only open one or two nights a week and it was mostly just the owner and his wife working it…. We had wanted to sign the lease for weeks but they kept blowing us off. When the leasing agent finally gave it to us, it turned out it was only for 14 months, not three years. The rent was to go up after two months.

"Plus, they wanted a $7000 deposit. This was all not what we had agreed on. They got mad because we painted, so we all agreed to just give them an extra $2500 and just walk away. We decided not to sue because it was too much stress. We just decided to let it go.... We don’t know if it was a scam. [The owner] doesn’t speak English and for sure he can’t read it. But I guess it could have been an honest mistake.”

She says Copacabana is still open with the old owner. Meanwhile, the old Mesopotamia is now a hair-and-nail salon. “There are six hair-and-nail salons on the same Lemon Grove street. It’s the hair-and-nail capital of East County.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach – open-air insane asylums?

Homeless removed before Mayor Gloria and Jen Campbell make appearance
Next Article

Tony Bennett’s first and last dramatic performance

Why is it called The Oscar?
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close