The changes promised with the construction of the new downtown arena have already started reshaping the culture of downtown’s nightlife. Nov. 1 was the swansong for Marilyn’s on K, the subterranean bar and live music venue known for its loyal following of local devotees and offering the most popular live band karaoke in town.
Passersby will soon see renovation on the Marilyn’s property to accommodate a dozen TVs, several dozen arcade games and a new kitchen featuring a stone pizza oven. Drawn by the incoming arena, the burgeoning craft cocktail and beer scene and the farm-to-fork movement’s local strength, San Diego business partners Roy Ledo and Hassan Mahmood will be installing a version of their hit North Park arcade bar, the Coin Op, in that space by late March.
It’s sad news to longtime Marilyn’s patrons. Over Marilyn’s 16 years, owner Linda Swanigan estimates some 1,600 performers have been enjoyed on their stage, including once-unknown local Jackie Greene, now a member of the band The Black Crowes. It was like home to many musicians, music lovers to fans of the live karaoke band Rock On!, who can still be found at local venues like Goldfield Trading Post or Powerhouse Pub.
One such karaoke devotee is Keyko Torres-Oki, who enjoyed Marilyn’s on weeknights for its atmosphere of relaxed, safe fun. “It was the kind of place to go with a bunch of people, or even alone … the variety and space made it easy.”
The closing of Marilyn’s was not entirely unexpected, as owner Swanigan had been looking to sell the business over that past year. Attendance had waned, and Swanigan’s other venture, a software company, took up more of her time.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership’s business recruiter Valerie Mamone-Werder, worked with Tricia Bernhardt, a broker with local firm Restaurant Exchange, to demonstrate to Ledo and Mahmood the potential in a K Street location. “The property owner has always felt that there was good opportunity to provide food in that space… for that customer that wants more than a cocktail and to stay longer.”
Ledo describes Coin Op as a place where “you can get a proper Old Fashioned or Negroni but show up in flip flops and a t-shirt and play Galaga.” Additionally, pinball fans can get excited. Ledo says he has been in touch with a Sacramento pinball club, “coordinating weekly and monthly tournaments.”
Ledo will move here with his newest business partner, Evan Louis (a Sacramento native) bringing along their head bartender and kitchen manager from San Diego as core staff. Ledo estimates they’ll be hiring about a dozen local employees for the kitchen and bar.
Ramping up revitalization of “The Kay” owes thanks in part to the incoming arena, but also the DSP’s efforts in marketing the area to new business. Mamone-Werder describes her role as being a “third party, unbiased selling downtown … knowing what is a good retail mix, how a business can thrive and survive in the area.”
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