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Ace of Spades music club recently got its liquor license under limited hours following area residents' concerns about possible problems.
On March 3, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) transferred a liquor license to the club, which opened in early February at 1417 R St. The license was transferred from Empire Events, a nightclub operated there by the building's owner, Randy Paragary, and partners from 2004 until February 2010.
Ace of Spades' owners, Eric Rushing and Brett Bair, had hoped to serve alcohol at the club until 2 a.m. every night.
Under the conditions of the liquor license, the music club must stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and at 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. ABC initially planned to allow alcohol to be served only until 11 p.m. or midnight on weekends, but the owners appealed, said the club's General Manager, Mike Soliven.
Residents told ABC they were concerned the 1,000-person-capacity club wouldn't host much live music, operating primarily as a bar and leading to a lot of late-night noise, litter and other problems experienced with Empire and its successor, Venue, which closed in August.
"They don't understand – the owners don't want a nightclub," Soliven said. "Seemed like the owners were being punished for problems in the past. These guys are brand new to the business."
Ace of Spades held its first live show with Rob Zombie February 10. Live music is scheduled for most nights during the rest of March and April.
Two or three earlier shows featuring rapper Andre Nickatina, Badfish and another act had to be canceled because the club didn't have its liquor license yet. Alcohol is "a must" for some shows’ audiences, but bigger shows went on as scheduled, he said.
ABC must weigh input from Sacramento Police, city officials and the neighborhood when making decisions on liquor licenses.
The license transfer took four months – now the norm for the central city, where residents and others often raise concerns over the licenses, said Jeff Gregson, supervising investigator for ABC's Sacramento District.
Ace of Spades opened before the license was activated, which raised questions in the community. But they didn't sell alcohol, Gregson said.
Alcohol distributors check the status of a license on ABC's online license query system when business owners place an order and won't sell unless the license is active, he added.
"It's a pretty steep penalty for a wholesaler or distributor to make a sale to a non-licensed individual," Gregson said.
An entertainment permit from Sacramento Police requires shows to end by 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.
The ABC license, known as a type 47, allows the club to sell beer, wine and distilled liquor as long as a restaurant is also operated there. The establishment must have a kitchen.
"If a place has a microwave and sink and wants a type 47, that doesn't cut it," Gregson said.
Ace of Spades serves chicken wings, tacos, burgers, salads and other fare from 3 – 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 3 – 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon – 9 p.m. on Sundays. Prices range from $3.25 for a mixed green salad to $8.75 for grilled chicken pizza.
The club sits near the center of a trendy block in a former industrial warehouse district that is being gradually redeveloped. Most of the interior was kept from the Venue makeover. New crimson wallpaper and vintage-looking light fixtures dress up the main bar.
The liquor license will be up for renewal in a year. The owners can ask for later hours, but Soliven said he’s rarely seen that happen.
With three full bars, a juice bar for all-ages shows and six or seven bartenders working, Ace of Spades' owners could make an additional $10,000 to $15,000 in alcohol sales on weekday show nights if they were open until 2 a.m. like the smaller venues on the block. That's millions of dollars in sales a year, he said.
"Most people on that block don't start going out until 10 p.m.," Soliven said. "Shady Lady and R15 are busy at 11 (on weekdays) and we're kicking people out."
Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.