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Downtown Officials Hope Proposed Music Club Kicks Off Promenade Trend


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January 7, 2019 -- A blast from the past will sweep on to the Third Street Promenade if a proposed restaurant with live music and dancing gets the final go-ahead from the Planning Commission this week.

Casa Martin -- which is seeking a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits -- may be the first restaurant on the Promenade to offer live entertainment since the strip was launched three decades ago, Downtown officials said.

Proposed site for Casa Martin
Proposed site of Casa Martin (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)
While modest in size -- it would occupy 3,900 square feet and seat no more than 99 customers -- Downtown officials hope it sets off a trend that could enliven the strip at a time when retail sales are lagging.

"We haven't had a venue like this in a really long time," said Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., which runs the central business district.

"We have so little when it comes to things to do after dinner."

Robert O. York, a longtime consultant for DTSM, says there hasn't been such a venue in at least a quarter century.

"It's a bit of a return to where we used to be twenty-five, thirty years ago,," York said. "It's great to have someone come in and re-introduce that part of the business.

"It helps balance out the retail uses."

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The staff report for Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting said Casa Martin is proposing "live entertainment, including live music and dance performances, for dine-in customers."

The performances would take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and from 6 p.m. to midnight on weeknights, according to staff.

"All live entertainment is proposed to take place in the rear dining room of the restaurant on a trundle stage that would retract outside of entertainment hours," staff wrote.

Downtown Santa Monica and the surrounding area have lost the music venues that once attracted top-notch musicians, including Mick Taylor, the Rolling Stones' legendary former guitarist, and bassist Mike Watt.

The past decade has seen the closures of the Temple Bar on 10th Street and Wilshire Boulevard and 14 Below on 14th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard.

Harvelle's on 4th Street north of Broadway, which has been open since 1931 and offers live blues and R&B, remains the last music club in the Downtown area.

In fact, t he biggest live music venue may be the Promenade itself, which attracts street musicians hoping to be discovered.

"We're looking to pump up the entertainment opportunities and get the night life juiced up," York said. "We want to get people to stay longer."

Rawson hopes Casa Martin will encourage other live entertainment venues and envisions speak-easy-style clubs with entrances along the Promenade alleys.

"I hope it's the beginning of something that's a shift for the Downtown," Rawson said of Casa Martin.

"We have got to do things that are edgy and interesting," she said. "That is what locals want."

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