Torch Club celebrates anniversary at current location

The Torch Club will celebrate 12 years at its current spot on 15th Street across from Memorial Auditorium on Friday, but owner Marina Texeira said the club’s history dates back to the 1930s.

The business opened in 1934, run by Johnny “Bananas” Oreb and Ernie Maskovich, and it was one of the first local businesses, along with Old Ironsides, to receive a liquor license after Prohibition, Texeira, 46, said Wednesday.

“It’s kind of rolled with the tides and trends without being too trendy,” she said of the club’s longevity.

The business came into Texeira’s family when her grandfather purchased it in 1969. It moved from its original location at 601 J St. to the corner of Eighth and L streets, where it became the stomping grounds of politicians.

“It was a couple of doors down from Frank Fat’s, and the music was mostly 45s in a jukebox,” Texeira said. “It was big with the political scene, and Gov. (Jerry) Brown would go by there back in those days.”

Another move occurred in 1982, when the club went to 16th and L streets, and despite being just on the other side of the Capitol, it dropped out of the politicians’ rounds, becoming popular with workers in the almond-growing industry, who worked nearby.

The area did not have many bars, and Texeira said one of the draws was having a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights. Blues became a fixture at the club in the late 1980s and early 1990s after Sam’s Hofbrau closed on the corner of 17th and J streets, which is now occupied by Hamburger Pattie’s.

It was around that time that Texeira’s brother began booking live music seven nights per week, she said, adding that live music had been featured in the past, but had never been a fixture of the business.

“My dad and I were partners, and we moved to this location when they built the (Capitol Area East End Complex),” Texeira said, referencing the current location at 904 15th St.

Opening night was April 13, 2000.

“It was a great location across the street from Memorial Auditorium,” she said. “There was no nightlife in the area, and we were packed before and after shows.”

Mark Mitchell, who owns a local catering business, handles booking and promotions for Torch Club, and he described it as a “legitimate club.”

“You can come in here and talk to people, and they say they feel like they can be themselves,” he said Wednesday. “It’s got good music and quality service and is just a good, comfortable club.”

Texeira said it’s the people who come into the club who give her the most enjoyment in her job, and Friday’s anniversary event is a low-key thank-you to them.

“I knew we were coming up on our anniversary, and I wanted to acknowledge the people who come in here week in and week out,” she said.

Acoustic blues music will be played by Jimmy Pailer and Lew Fratis, who are veterans of the Torch Club stage.

The happy hour show begins at 5 p.m. and goes to 7:30 p.m., and there is no cover charge – just like all happy hour shows, except for the occasional special feature.

Mitchell will cater the event, and though details are still being worked out on what the food will be, Texeira said it will be a spread of food, and it will be free to patrons.

Happy hour alcohol prices are $3 for domestic beers, $4 for draft and imported beers, $4.50 for well drinks and $6 for wines.

As Torch Club moves forward, Texeira said, she is broadening the music genre from primarily blues to include some more Americana, bluegrass and rockabilly.

“We’re trying to reach out to other music fans in town,” she said. “We all need to support live music.”

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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April 11, 2012 | 8:45 PM

Nice article!

April 12, 2012 | 7:25 AM

I have always considered Torch Club to be “the happiest place on earth.” The staff is great and the customers who go there love live music. The bands that play at Torch Club NEVER disappoint. It is truly one of Sacramento’s musical treasures.

April 12, 2012 | 8:33 AM

A house of many blurry nights…the Torch is indeed a gem!

April 12, 2012 | 10:01 AM

is it happy hour yet?

April 13, 2012 | 10:12 AM

Nice write-up. I remember and have frequented three of the four Torch locations. The original J Street spot is news to me.

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