A look at Purgatory, the grid’s newest restaurant-lounge

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When Mark Twain advised, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company,” he could have been talking about the newest hotspot coming to J Street in Midtown: Purgatory.

The restaurant-by-day, dance-club-by night venue is nearing completion, according to operations manager Mark Garcia, and, when it opens its doors at the end of August, Garcia promises it will have a lot to offer.

“Purgatory is the place between Heaven and Hell and that’s where people will enter our place,” Garcia said. “Once they’re here, they can choose what to experience.”

The concept behind Purgatory, Garcia said, is to combine two contrasting themes – heaven, hell, sinners, saints – into one venue. There are two large clubs to visit within Purgatory: a restaurant with a light ambiance on the first floor, and an edgier club in the underground basement.

The restaurant is still under construction, but the new sign went up over the weekend, drawing attention to the boarded up former Azukar Lounge site at 1616 J St. that will soon be ready to welcome guests. Garcia granted Sac Press an impromptu, no-photos preview of the multifaceted club Tuesday, but the doors won’t open to the public until everything is in place, he said.

The front of the venue will be a full coffee bar open mornings in what Garcia referred to as their “Garden of Eden”: an open-air, covered patio area with tall tables and chairs and stone fixtures.

From Eden, patrons can go to the upper level “Heaven” or descend the stairwell to “Hell.”

The “Heaven” level of the restaurant/club is a large ballroom with light Tiffany Blue walls and cloud-white and silver accents. Spacious open booths with contemporary, curved white lounges and ottomans will line the walls of the elevated VIP section, overlooking the floor and its linen-clad tables.

An unusual feature of Heaven will be a one-piece, opaque film that covers light fixtures around the circumference of the room, creating a lightbox effect. Garcia said this European-style feature is lightweight and designed to diffuse light from LEDs behind it.

The center of the ceiling will showcase a unique three-chandelier fixture with dangling crystals at the end of fiber-optic lines, creating yet another unusual lighting effect for the room.

Garcia said lunch and dinner will be served at the restaurant until about 9 p.m. every day. After that – “Heaven” turns into a nightclub with dancing, cocktails and appetizers.

But what’s Heaven without a corresponding Hell? Purgatory has it, Garcia said.

A short trip down a side staircase takes visitors to the lower-level club that offers a distinctly different climate than its lighter, upper-level neighbor.

Downstairs, visitors are greeted by a darker, more intense color palette of reds, black, and gunmetal grey. The 98-foot-long granite top bar sits atop art-deco square glass bricks lit from behind with LEDs.

The intimate VIP booths in Hell are decked out with black leather, high-back chairs and low drink tables, and sit tucked in along the walls next to the dance floor. Some booths curve around and behind a small stage area with a dancer’s pole and spotlights; other booths sit next to a dancer’s cage and swing.

A DJ and a sound and light technician in booths at the far end of the room control music and videos appearing on flat-screen TVs on walls and columns throughout the lower level.

Garcia said the music in the lower-level nightclub will be a mix of electronic dance music and trance, while upstairs DJs will play pop, top 40, alternative and dance tunes.

Purgatory hosted an open call for servers, bartenders and other staff last week, and the turnout was overwhelming, Garcia said.

“We had about 300 people show up,” he said. “Every seat in the house was full, and people were left standing, too. It was incredible.”

Garcia said about 30 people will be on staff for day and night shifts at Purgatory.

Stay tuned for more details about the opening as they become available.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

  • I’m calling it right now… This place is going to be Azucar with new finishes. It’s called a Restaurant + Lounge, but it’s actually a coffee bar? I’m confused. Sounds like the “All you can eat sushi” restaurant at Azucar, which nobody actually ate at, but needed to be there to keep their liquor license, which eventually got suspended for selling to minors. In it’s place, a hell themed club… All the best to Purgatory, until it eventually gets shut down for being all things miserable…

    • Just another place for the little girls to hang out with the old men who have money and drugs. Meanwhile no one cares about us thirty-somethings, who actually have the means and the money to go to eat at the restaurant AND go to the club. oh well, maybe the next thing that opens when this fails will be geared toward a better crowd

    • Casey Kirk


      May I ask where you gathered that assumption from? I don’t see anywhere in the article that says Purgatory is aimed at only twenty-somethings or old men and drugs.

      That seems like a pretty bold statement and I’m truly curious.

    • reply to above comment… I was referring to the comment about Azukar… That is why I hit reply on THAT comment. Azukar was like that and this will prob be the same way.

  • Midtown Family

    Good luck to them! Seems like the last few places couldn’t toe the line of being both a restaurant and club. I hope they can get that part worked out.

  • Sounds like a great concept for this troubled location. It is good to see another Restaurant/club outside of the typical 16th/R and 28th/J locations.

    • Great concept? Really?

  • Mark Bean

    I love these passion projects. They always sound like they were dreamed up whilst completely high at 4am by people that got thrown out of somewhere like Mix. Let’s hope they can execute such an ambitious plan.


      I like your Comment.Who knows? That could be true. Sometimes folks get inspiring ideas during the bewitching hours before dawn creeps up and shows them their folly. Still I wish the place the best, though I prefer Higher Ground in Heaven.

    • And by all means keep the tats-and-bling crowd out of the place. It was pretty sketchy walking around Midtown Friday around midnight after the concert at the Crest.


    I live in Central Downtown and will go check it out. We need more life downtown and cool places to hang out at from time to time. I am by the K Bar but it is kind of a yuppie hang out. I would like a nice friendly place where people can just be people, without fuss and fanfare.

  • Sergio Reyes

    Not sure if tragic, or epic. If it’s less Affliction/Ed Hardy/YOLO-bro, and more chick in 90’s cat crop-top and leather boots, then things could turn out interesting… let us pray. (…..and prey!)

  • Hope they get real doors

  • Chandler Hotchkin

    It sounds like fun! I’m definitely keeping my eyes and ears open for updates.

  • Check it out first then say something.

  • Why the negativity from the fact of who and how it was run in its prior owners? So many venues are going out of business and a few of you sit here and already doom Purgatory before it is even open. Are you the same people whom don’t even go out and enjoy the night-life that does exist in Greater Sacramento? I say at least give them a chance

  • Just checked out this new place and it was a great experience!! I had a carmel latte and the black angus and blue cheese sandwich which were both AMAZING!! The place is completely re-done and its a very classy and comfortable atmosphere! Also the two women working were very nice and friendly!! Check this place out, you’re sure to love it!!

  • I enjoyed the Caramel Latte and the black angus sandwich. I was bummed it wasn’t packed and buzzing, but my lunch experience was peaceful and the free wifi made it all the better. I’ll be back, for sure! As for the negatives I’ve read, I guess it’ll take time for those folks at purgatory to prove their ground. I wish them the very best! Should they succeed in their business, then all the better for the local economy.

  • I’ve heard some nasty things about the owner of this place as well. I had a friend who worked for him during the construction and told me he comes off as some sort of high roller. As it turns out he laid off his entire staff in the middle of the project and had to delay construction because he ran out of money. Some of the people he let go worked for his investment company, not just Purgatory. They also claim to have a “9 time Master Chef” working for them. There is no such thing. That would be like claiming to be a 9 time CPA or 9 time Doctor. Master Chef is a certification in the United States that takes a long time to achieve and only about a hundred people in the United States hold the title. Being as how I have never heard of Chef Dave Brown I doubt he is the real deal. The guy who was interviewed for this story posted the link as “an interview with the Sacramento Bee”. He didn’t even know who he was talking to. This whole operation comes off to me as nothing but shady and sketch.

  • HA! looks like the place is now being sold! that was fast. seems like someone got ran outta business and town. Where do i go to get a food ellas sounds good. and the mix after sounds like a great time.

  • the restaurant gods eat another one. tough business.

  • powder3000 your comments just made me think even more badly of Purgatory than any of the ‘haters’ who made comments. I can’t speak for others, but the last time I sat down at a restaurant and thought ‘I wonder how many Master Chef competitions the chef at this restaurant has won’ was…..never.

    Try a little humility with a spell check on the side.

  • bottom line in my opinion, should it fail, then its a loss for all of them…which is sad for anyone trying to start up a business (do we really want to hope a business to fail in this tough economy?).

    As long as they can prove to be an asset to this community, by employing local folks, buying from local vendors, and provide a safe environment to socialize in, then I give them my support. anything short of that, maybe my thoughts could be different…But even I don’t know what to completely think of Purgatory, until they fully open. Till then, I give them a “positive” benefit of my doubts. I wish them well.

    Powder3000 I’ll be coming through one day, to taste your creations, I hope you are as good as you say you are.

  • Purgatory is a great local establishment. They buy from local bakers and coffee roasters. They employ local people and they aim to serve locals as well. How can there be so many negative comments on a business that hasn’t opened yet? If you love Sacramento like I do, give a local business a chance and help our community out!

    • Not to mention the free wifi and the 20% discount for state/ government workers and military discounts!!:) O and all leftover pastries are donated to Sacramento’s Loaves and Fishes!!:)

  • all the negative people ^^^^ above have no idea what is going on (its past or its future) but talk and act like they do, very sad

  • For those ‘naysayers’ – WOW..you are some haters! It’s a shame that you can be so self-righteous and negative and make a ‘judgement’ about a new place before they even OPEN!! It’s analogous to make a judgement that a you kid will grow up to be a loser because the parents (in this restaurant’s case the predecessor) are losers! Way to WELCOME an entrepreneur tyring to bring business, jobs and employment opportunities to your community! With negative attitudes like YOURS (the haters..you know who you are!) no wonder the previous businesses didn’t success! Before you ‘judge’ take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself what are YOU doing (other than posting negativity on the web)… to better your community??? Give it a chance BEFORE you have an opinion!! I wish the place GOOD LUCK, MUCH SUCCESS and POSITIVE ENERGY!

    • Well said MeeSun74! I believe you nailed it on the head! I been rooting for them since the day I met a few of them out front. They’re full of energy and enthusiastic as hell (pardon the pun)!, I find it tough not to like them.

      And so, we’ve had the opportunity to try their food offerings and test the service. The receptionist was very pleasant. She greeted me with a smile and lead us to our table. Our server, was a female. She too was pleasant, but her service wasn’t the best, but it could of been much worse!
      Our server suggested we ordered something called DEVILS Horseback for appetizr. Though my gut feeling told me not too, but my date was willing to give it a taste. so how does a date, with garlic and wrapped in bacon have so much flavor???????? It just exploded with yummy goodness with the first bite! It was incredible. My serving of the pork loin was enormous! it was tender thru and thru. the garlic mash was good, but still needed a dash of salt and the aspagus was fresh and not overcooked. my date ordered salmon with some noodles. i never got a taste of her plate, cuz i had a ton of food on mine! We never made it around to dessert, we were just too stuffed. For the 70bucks spent, it was well worth it. Great atmosphere, decent service, and single servings enuf to feed 3! THUMBS UP,GUYS!

      we will be back!

  • An awful abundance of negativity being expressed about a new venture before they even open the doors. We should be happy that entrepreneurs are willing to risk big bucks on new concepts in Sacramento. Give it rest and check out the coffee bar, do they not do that all over the streets of Miami?

  • M Smith

    If it fails, do we have to listen to the owners complain about how Sacramento isn’t sheik enough for their cutting edge concepts? Ugh. Just do one thing, and do it well. People will come.

    **smac: it’s called a “pun”. A pun is a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.

    • EXACTLY!

    • I believe you mean “chic”. A Sheik is a leader in the Arabic community. So if they say it’s not “sheik” enough, they’ll be right…

  • Well I here he got an invester or should I say a DUMMY they will never see there return HAHA as long as he has my money that the LABOR board is going to get for me 16,500 or more

  • Mark Bean
  • Your link doesn’t work REALtalk


  • Casey Kirk

    Thanks to everyone for the lively conversation. Please remember that, while we encourage debate, we require that all users are respectful of one another while engaging in debate.

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  • I wish you GOOD LUCK Chef! With all these ‘serious haters’ out there…(I”m AMAZED how PROUD they are to post their arrogance and self-righteousness judgements and negativity!! WOW!)… You’re gonna NEED IT!! The GOOD NEWS… is that hopefully they won’t SHOW UP!!


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