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A new downtown bar with two very different vibes is expected to open early next month.
Splash Bar will be part beach party, part Vegas nightclub when the doors open as soon as the first week of December. Once a week, the bar will even offer live country music and line dancing.
Ai "Al" Pham, who co-owns Azukar, and partners are opening the new bar to replace Avalon at the corner of 15th and H streets. Originally a veterans hall, the address has become a troubled spot that spelled the end for two nightclubs.
The main room – a 5,000-square-foot dance hall – will be a slick and sophisticated white room featuring live music twice a week. A smaller side room and patio will use tiki huts and surfboards to create the beach theme.
"We want to create two different worlds in one building," Pham said. "There's nothing like it down here."
Violence and other problems plagued the two previous bars at 805 15th St.: Avalon and Elements. Two people in a long-running feud were shot and killed outside Elements in 2004. The club stopped offering hip hop nights after the shootings, and its permit was later revoked.
Pham and his partners agreed to buy the business from Avalon's newest owners, who approached them last summer. The club's owners had problems with the crowds being attracted there and other issues they couldn't fix, Pham said.
Avalon closed in late August. Its owners declined comment. In September, Pham and his partners met with officials from the city and police department to lay out a plan to change the club's ownership and theme.
"We stepped in and negotiated with the city," he said, adding that the establishment still needs final approval from the city.
One change is that Splash Bar will offer a small menu of pizza slices, tacos, chicken wings, soups and salads. The bar will now be open daily, starting at 5 p.m. Live entertainment will be offered Wednesdays through Saturdays, starting at 10 p.m. The bar will close at 1:30 a.m.
Splash Bar will be open for those 21 and older, Pham said.
The structure was built in 1948 as a veterans hall and has had a liquor license ever since. For the first time, a sidewalk cafe will operate out front. At least seven tables will be set up behind railings. The entrance will be marked by a pair of 10-foot longboards and palm trees.
Some big changes are happening inside.
The owners went for a clean, elegant look in the main room. They installed a white granite bar and all-new upholstery, including padded white walls and white booths with glowing white tables. The original hardwood floor is being resurfaced and painted black.
"When you walk in, everything is pure white. Even the ceiling is white," Pham said. "The main room will be very sophisticated – more of a high-end, Vegas-style nightclub."
For a more casual, relaxed atmosphere, the owners are turning a 3,000-square-foot side room into the Pacifico Bar. That room will have a long tiki hut bar, surfboard cocktail tables and a beer-and-beach mural filling two walls. Pacifico beer is "huge" in Mexico's surfing community, and the beer company is sponsoring the room, he said.
Corona Cove, the new name for the back patio, features a small tiki hut bar, tiki hut booths, torches, two fireplaces, palms and other exotic plants.
Splash Bar will offer country music and DJs on Wednesdays. Bands will play on Thursday nights. With two rooms, the bar will always have two DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, when house and other dance music will be played.
Other nightclubs have closed in Sacramento recently, including Zokku, Empire and its successor, Venue.
Pham and his other partners have tried three restaurant concepts in Azukar. They spent a lot of money to create a high-end Mexican restaurant, but then turned it into a taqueria when the crowds didn’t materialize. When that didn't work, either, they began offering all-you-can eat, made-to-order sushi – $12 for lunch and $19 for dinner.
He said he's hopeful they've found the right combination for Splash Bar by going "totally out of the box” with an eclectic mix.
"People have a lot of doubt about that location itself, because of how it's always been," he said. "When people's expectations are low, they can only go up."
Photos by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.