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

“6-Feet Supper Club” brings live music back to Panama 66

“We decided to do everything with caution.”

Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet) plays at Panama 66’s Wednesday night jam.
Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet) plays at Panama 66’s Wednesday night jam.

For years, San Diego’s favorite destination for jazz on a Wednesday night was the jam session curated by trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos at Panama 66. He would feature performances in the early evening by students from his Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, and at around 8 p.m. Castellanos would move inside to the auditorium of the San Diego Museum of Art, where his pro-level jam would feature local heavyweights and a packed audience that frequently numbered in the hundreds. It was an ideal situation for the musicians, the fan-base and Panama 66 co-owners, husband-wife team Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman.

Gilbert Castellanos Supper Club Jazz

  • Panama 66, 1450 Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park

Then, in mid-March of 2020, everything crashed overnight. “It wiped us out,” says Motch. “We immediately lost so much money, just thousands and thousands of dollars worth of food in refrigerators that we had to giveaway or throw away.”

The couple thought they might be able to reopen the venue with significant restrictions back in September, but a last-minute phone call from the County of San Diego put the kibosh on that idea. “We decided not to rush back into reopening, because we had to refund everyone’s money and apologize.”

Two months ago, Panama 66 saw the restrictions easing, but wanted to make sure that the coast was clear before making a commitment, so they called the same official that originally canceled the September shows. “She was incredibly helpful,” says Motch. “She sent me a copy of all the guidelines and requirements to open up.”

On February 17, Motch brought Gilbert Castellanos and his band back to Panama 66. There have been many changes because of COVID-19, however. “First of all, we had to change the event into a paid show. There are just too many people who would want to come see him for free, and it would be impossible to follow the guidelines. I’d get 50 people inside the door, and have to turn 150 people away.”

Reservations are now required for the Castellanos shows and they’ve been selling out as soon as they become available. Motch is calling the event a “6-Feet Supper Club.”

“It’s a completely different situation. We’re not inside anymore. I go in every Tuesday night and reset the entire floor plan to accommodate. The rule is six feet between the people, not between the tables. Gilbert is playing straight down the middle and there is no middle row — he’s playing to an empty row.”

Prices vary depending on proximity to the music. So far, Panama 66 has featured music on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. The Friday and Saturday shows are not ticketed events, but the safety protocols are still being enforced.

I asked Motch what was the biggest lesson he garnered from the whole pandemic experience?

“There was nothing that could have prepared us for this experience. We’ve always operated on a ‘hit-by-a-bus,’ principle, where anyone might not show up tomorrow. So you have to cross train all your staff. I thought we were ready for anything, but nothing could have made us ready for this. I kind of hunkered down in sort of a hibernation mode. We decided to do everything with caution. We were not going to be the first one to reopen. We were not going to be the first to react to the news unless it had to do with safety.”

In the days before the pandemic, Panama 66 had a staff of 60. Today they’re carrying about a third of that. “But I’m hiring. So if you are a kitchen worker/musician, you should send me a resume.”

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

Previous article

City expands outreach to vaccine-hesitant communities

Hesitation Nation
Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet) plays at Panama 66’s Wednesday night jam.
Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet) plays at Panama 66’s Wednesday night jam.

For years, San Diego’s favorite destination for jazz on a Wednesday night was the jam session curated by trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos at Panama 66. He would feature performances in the early evening by students from his Young Lions Jazz Conservatory, and at around 8 p.m. Castellanos would move inside to the auditorium of the San Diego Museum of Art, where his pro-level jam would feature local heavyweights and a packed audience that frequently numbered in the hundreds. It was an ideal situation for the musicians, the fan-base and Panama 66 co-owners, husband-wife team Jeff Motch and Clea Hantman.

Gilbert Castellanos Supper Club Jazz

  • Panama 66, 1450 Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park

Then, in mid-March of 2020, everything crashed overnight. “It wiped us out,” says Motch. “We immediately lost so much money, just thousands and thousands of dollars worth of food in refrigerators that we had to giveaway or throw away.”

The couple thought they might be able to reopen the venue with significant restrictions back in September, but a last-minute phone call from the County of San Diego put the kibosh on that idea. “We decided not to rush back into reopening, because we had to refund everyone’s money and apologize.”

Two months ago, Panama 66 saw the restrictions easing, but wanted to make sure that the coast was clear before making a commitment, so they called the same official that originally canceled the September shows. “She was incredibly helpful,” says Motch. “She sent me a copy of all the guidelines and requirements to open up.”

On February 17, Motch brought Gilbert Castellanos and his band back to Panama 66. There have been many changes because of COVID-19, however. “First of all, we had to change the event into a paid show. There are just too many people who would want to come see him for free, and it would be impossible to follow the guidelines. I’d get 50 people inside the door, and have to turn 150 people away.”

Reservations are now required for the Castellanos shows and they’ve been selling out as soon as they become available. Motch is calling the event a “6-Feet Supper Club.”

“It’s a completely different situation. We’re not inside anymore. I go in every Tuesday night and reset the entire floor plan to accommodate. The rule is six feet between the people, not between the tables. Gilbert is playing straight down the middle and there is no middle row — he’s playing to an empty row.”

Prices vary depending on proximity to the music. So far, Panama 66 has featured music on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. The Friday and Saturday shows are not ticketed events, but the safety protocols are still being enforced.

I asked Motch what was the biggest lesson he garnered from the whole pandemic experience?

“There was nothing that could have prepared us for this experience. We’ve always operated on a ‘hit-by-a-bus,’ principle, where anyone might not show up tomorrow. So you have to cross train all your staff. I thought we were ready for anything, but nothing could have made us ready for this. I kind of hunkered down in sort of a hibernation mode. We decided to do everything with caution. We were not going to be the first one to reopen. We were not going to be the first to react to the news unless it had to do with safety.”

In the days before the pandemic, Panama 66 had a staff of 60. Today they’re carrying about a third of that. “But I’m hiring. So if you are a kitchen worker/musician, you should send me a resume.”

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

Bootstrap Kombucha goes for a hard ReBoot

Organic booch brand adds hard kombucha to its lineup
Next Article

Cloak & Petal honors Oda Nobunaga’s Demise

Get out of your comfort zone and give gin a try
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows 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 Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup 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 Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search 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 Waterfront — All things ocean 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