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RIP 4th & B: Wrecking ball takes out slice of local music history

The concert hall is long gone, but the bootlegs live on

The wrecking ball took out downtown's long-shuttered 4th & B nightclub, the final fall of a concert venue fondly remembered by many (but not all) local music fans of the late 20th century.

During its heyday, the venue hosted over 3000 concerts with everyone from James Brown and the Black Eyed Peas to Adam Ant, TV on the Radio, Wilco, X, Snoop Dogg, Buckcherry, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Ted Nugent, O.M.D., Ice Cube, Dokken, the Cardigans, Boyz II Men, Ramón Ayala, the White Stripes, Public Enemy, and Alan Parsons. Electronica dance nights hosted well-known DJs such as Felix Da Housecat. The venue was also popular for private corporate bookings. Cheap Trick, Los Lobos, and Bob Weir's Ratdog all played behind closed corporate doors at the downtown nightclub. On the internet today, around a hundred 4th & B concerts can be found on various audio and video bootleg recordings.

Bootleg CD from a 7-3-97 Justin Hayward concert at 4th & B

4th & B opened in November 1995 within a 25,000-square-foot former bank building built in 1963 at 345 B Street, on the other side of the block from the long-closed California Theater. The venue offered seating capacity of around 1500 patrons, even though available parking spots usually numbered around zero (the only other real estate on that downtown block was a tiny Ace Parking lot with space for 18 vehicles).

Among the original operating partners was local nightclub honcho Bob Speth, whose Clairemont club the Bacchanal was for a time one of the most successful and popular concert venues in the city (there are almost as many Bacchanal bootlegs online as 4th & B concerts). Although it took a while to gain a local reputation, 4th & B was soon hosting A-list bookings. However, there were also behind-the-scenes problems, including lawsuits filed by former employees alleging mistreatment. “I was one of the original bartenders hired on," says Moletta Wick. "We ended up with eight out of twenty something bartenders that actually stayed there.” She says the place had rowdy shows unlike anything she’s ever seen, and her resume includes several biker bars. “I mean, [co-operator] Don Ferguson in our first week got a bottle cracked over his head. It knocked him out and we had to take him to the hospital!”

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Bob Speth told the Reader at the time that lawsuits are simply part of doing business, and that he fights rather than settles. “I own the place, one hundred percent of it, and I live in a one bedroom apartment, $650.00 a month rent. Now the people, because of the size of this venue, perceive me as being wealthy...so what happens is, when somebody has a problem, they find an attorney and the attorney says ‘Oh, 4th & B, I went to a concert there, sold out, this guy’s got bucks, let’s go.’”

In 2003, Bob Speth sold the venue to a group of investors, the Pacific Entertainment LLC corporation. "When I retired, I took my payout in cash,” Speth told the Reader. In 2004, that corporation sold 4th & B to one of its members, Ali Nilforushan of Del Mar, with Ray Johnson staying on as General Manager, along with much of the staff. After extensive remodeling, the venue managed to maintain top level booking, at least for a while, despite new area competition such as the nearby House of Blues.

From 2005 through 2009, the nightclub was operated by the aforementioned Ali Nilforushan, a North County horse breeder who reportedly spent over four million dollars remodeling the club. After nearly consummating a deal with nearby competitor House of Blues, who were involved in booking 4th & B for a time, Nilforushan sold the business to investor and home improvement specialist Vincent Puma and his wife Judy Puma (who spent over a dozen years working for McCune car sales) for a reported $1,797,500, along with some property and other considerations.

Video:

Alan Parsons Live Project 10-13-96 4th & B

Vincent Puma, who graduated Mt. Carmel High, soon installed a club display featuring his own collection of rare signed guitars, around three dozen of them, autographed at 4th & B concerts by Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and members of Skid Row, Ratt, Dramarama, Korn, and the Cult. According to Puma's LinkedIn business profile, "As a high volume promoter, I produced over 550 shows in all genres, increased the gross revenue from $800,000.00 in 2009, 1.2 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2011, this was done in a down economy, in a 'B' market, with no working capital. Acted as General manager, bar manager, talent buyer, and trained security staff."

Video:

David Pack 10-2-99 4th & B

In 2011, the 15,000-square-foot building and its property were purchased by Crown Investments for around 4.8 million dollars. A new 200 capacity sidestage debuted in Autumn 2012, with its own entrance on 4th Avenue.

However, the Reader was soon reporting on allegations that the Pumas had fallen far behind paying in the building landlord's $29,000 monthly rental fee. Former owner Nilforushan also alleged other aspects of the deal had not been met, threatening to take legal action to seize control of the nightclub once again.

Bootleg CD from one of the first 4th & B concerts on 1-21-96

4th & B closed in December 2012 as the Pumas battled financial and rent lawsuits filed by building owner Crown Investments and Ali Nilforushan. The Pumas were effectively evicted and the club's sound equipment and other fixtures were auctioned off in March 2013. The venue was reportedly planning to reopen as a dance club under the name Avalon operated by new co-owner John Lyons, who cofounded House of Blues with Dan Aykroyd and two others, in partnership with local EDM promoter David Dean. Lyons named the new nightclub after an L.A. venue called Avalon Hollywood (formerly the Hollywood Palace), which he'd co-owned since 2002, and a new sign was installed on the building which read "Redefining Awesome.com." However, the sign never delivered on its promise.

Downtown was apparently never destined to become an EDM mecca, at least not north of Broadway. In 2015, the 4th & B property was purchased for $7.5 million dollars by a Tokyo-based real estate development company called IIDA Group Holdings, Ltd., which specializes in residential buildups.

In early August, the 4th and B building was blocked off for construction. This month, the structure fell to the wrecking balls of local firm AMG Demolition. Plans have been announced - but not confirmed or approved by the city - to build a thirty-two floor tower structure in its place. The property developers, who are working in partnership with area architects, hope the tower will host a hotel, as well as office suites and an underground parking garage with space for around three dozen vehicles.

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The wrecking ball took out downtown's long-shuttered 4th & B nightclub, the final fall of a concert venue fondly remembered by many (but not all) local music fans of the late 20th century.

During its heyday, the venue hosted over 3000 concerts with everyone from James Brown and the Black Eyed Peas to Adam Ant, TV on the Radio, Wilco, X, Snoop Dogg, Buckcherry, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Ted Nugent, O.M.D., Ice Cube, Dokken, the Cardigans, Boyz II Men, Ramón Ayala, the White Stripes, Public Enemy, and Alan Parsons. Electronica dance nights hosted well-known DJs such as Felix Da Housecat. The venue was also popular for private corporate bookings. Cheap Trick, Los Lobos, and Bob Weir's Ratdog all played behind closed corporate doors at the downtown nightclub. On the internet today, around a hundred 4th & B concerts can be found on various audio and video bootleg recordings.

Bootleg CD from a 7-3-97 Justin Hayward concert at 4th & B

4th & B opened in November 1995 within a 25,000-square-foot former bank building built in 1963 at 345 B Street, on the other side of the block from the long-closed California Theater. The venue offered seating capacity of around 1500 patrons, even though available parking spots usually numbered around zero (the only other real estate on that downtown block was a tiny Ace Parking lot with space for 18 vehicles).

Among the original operating partners was local nightclub honcho Bob Speth, whose Clairemont club the Bacchanal was for a time one of the most successful and popular concert venues in the city (there are almost as many Bacchanal bootlegs online as 4th & B concerts). Although it took a while to gain a local reputation, 4th & B was soon hosting A-list bookings. However, there were also behind-the-scenes problems, including lawsuits filed by former employees alleging mistreatment. “I was one of the original bartenders hired on," says Moletta Wick. "We ended up with eight out of twenty something bartenders that actually stayed there.” She says the place had rowdy shows unlike anything she’s ever seen, and her resume includes several biker bars. “I mean, [co-operator] Don Ferguson in our first week got a bottle cracked over his head. It knocked him out and we had to take him to the hospital!”

Sponsored
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Bob Speth told the Reader at the time that lawsuits are simply part of doing business, and that he fights rather than settles. “I own the place, one hundred percent of it, and I live in a one bedroom apartment, $650.00 a month rent. Now the people, because of the size of this venue, perceive me as being wealthy...so what happens is, when somebody has a problem, they find an attorney and the attorney says ‘Oh, 4th & B, I went to a concert there, sold out, this guy’s got bucks, let’s go.’”

In 2003, Bob Speth sold the venue to a group of investors, the Pacific Entertainment LLC corporation. "When I retired, I took my payout in cash,” Speth told the Reader. In 2004, that corporation sold 4th & B to one of its members, Ali Nilforushan of Del Mar, with Ray Johnson staying on as General Manager, along with much of the staff. After extensive remodeling, the venue managed to maintain top level booking, at least for a while, despite new area competition such as the nearby House of Blues.

From 2005 through 2009, the nightclub was operated by the aforementioned Ali Nilforushan, a North County horse breeder who reportedly spent over four million dollars remodeling the club. After nearly consummating a deal with nearby competitor House of Blues, who were involved in booking 4th & B for a time, Nilforushan sold the business to investor and home improvement specialist Vincent Puma and his wife Judy Puma (who spent over a dozen years working for McCune car sales) for a reported $1,797,500, along with some property and other considerations.

Video:

Alan Parsons Live Project 10-13-96 4th & B

Vincent Puma, who graduated Mt. Carmel High, soon installed a club display featuring his own collection of rare signed guitars, around three dozen of them, autographed at 4th & B concerts by Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and members of Skid Row, Ratt, Dramarama, Korn, and the Cult. According to Puma's LinkedIn business profile, "As a high volume promoter, I produced over 550 shows in all genres, increased the gross revenue from $800,000.00 in 2009, 1.2 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2011, this was done in a down economy, in a 'B' market, with no working capital. Acted as General manager, bar manager, talent buyer, and trained security staff."

Video:

David Pack 10-2-99 4th & B

In 2011, the 15,000-square-foot building and its property were purchased by Crown Investments for around 4.8 million dollars. A new 200 capacity sidestage debuted in Autumn 2012, with its own entrance on 4th Avenue.

However, the Reader was soon reporting on allegations that the Pumas had fallen far behind paying in the building landlord's $29,000 monthly rental fee. Former owner Nilforushan also alleged other aspects of the deal had not been met, threatening to take legal action to seize control of the nightclub once again.

Bootleg CD from one of the first 4th & B concerts on 1-21-96

4th & B closed in December 2012 as the Pumas battled financial and rent lawsuits filed by building owner Crown Investments and Ali Nilforushan. The Pumas were effectively evicted and the club's sound equipment and other fixtures were auctioned off in March 2013. The venue was reportedly planning to reopen as a dance club under the name Avalon operated by new co-owner John Lyons, who cofounded House of Blues with Dan Aykroyd and two others, in partnership with local EDM promoter David Dean. Lyons named the new nightclub after an L.A. venue called Avalon Hollywood (formerly the Hollywood Palace), which he'd co-owned since 2002, and a new sign was installed on the building which read "Redefining Awesome.com." However, the sign never delivered on its promise.

Downtown was apparently never destined to become an EDM mecca, at least not north of Broadway. In 2015, the 4th & B property was purchased for $7.5 million dollars by a Tokyo-based real estate development company called IIDA Group Holdings, Ltd., which specializes in residential buildups.

In early August, the 4th and B building was blocked off for construction. This month, the structure fell to the wrecking balls of local firm AMG Demolition. Plans have been announced - but not confirmed or approved by the city - to build a thirty-two floor tower structure in its place. The property developers, who are working in partnership with area architects, hope the tower will host a hotel, as well as office suites and an underground parking garage with space for around three dozen vehicles.

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