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Fall opening expected for Dive Bar

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Dive Bar and two sister nightlife venues are expected to open within three months on K Street, breathing new life into the struggling pedestrian mall well ahead of other developments.

San Francisco nightclub operator George Karpaty’s trio of nightlife venues has been seen as competition by some at a time when local businesses continue to struggle and even close. Karpaty said he was lured to Sacramento partly by the success of nearby venues such as Social Nightclub, Ella, Grange and the Citizen Hotel.

But Karpaty said he’s developed concepts — a "mermaid bar," a gourmet pizza restaurant with acrobatic pizza tossers and a high-end, over-30 dance club — to further develop K Street Mall into an entertainment district and to bring people from as far away as the Sierra Nevada foothills. He’s using expertise gained from opening places like Ruby Skye and Slide, popular bars that draw Sacramentans to San Francisco.

"We’re going to blow K Street up," said Karpaty, owner of Inner Circle Entertainment. "We’re not bad guys. We’re going to promote downtown."

Karpaty and his crews were working Thursday at the site, one week after the Sacramento City Council chose developer David Taylor and another development team to redevelop vacant properties for two nearby blocks. While those mixed-use projects are expected to bring much-needed retail and housing to the street, they aren’t expected to open for at least two years.

Karpaty’s concepts will be new to Sacramento. He’s also pioneering some nightclub operations in this city that he’ll then use at his other establishments.

Dive Bar, at 1016 K St., will feature a 40-foot-long, 7,500-gallon saltwater tank with fish and costumed mermaids, both male and female, set over the bar in a room just 18 feet across. Structural steel beams have been installed on the ground floor and in the basement to hold up the tank and reinforce the floor underneath.

"It’s the most insane thing I ever took on," Karpaty said. “If a massive earthquake hits Sacramento, this aquarium will be the only thing left standing.”

The front of the bar is being built to evoke a classic Sacramento dive bar, complete with worn-looking couches. But beyond a giant “hole” in the back wall, the club opens into a main room topped by the aquarium, which is being fabricated from a single piece of Plexiglas by a former Monterey Bay Aquarium builder.

"The fish tank won’t look like anything else in the world," Karpaty said. "I’m not into starfish and treasure chests."

Next door, Pizza Rock will feature a DJ playing classic to modern and funky rock from a California-made Peterbilt truck breaking through the ceiling 15 feet in the air and surrounded by chain-link fencing and barbed wire.

World pizza-throwing champ Tony Gemignani, a partner at the restaurant, will train the staff to juggle dough, while bartenders will juggle bottles and glasses.

The ceiling will be covered with a mural that mimics Michelangelo’s "The Creation of Adam" — but the hand of God will be holding an electric guitar. The men’s bathroom will feature exterior piping and graffiti to make it appear that guys are “peeing in the alley,” Karpaty said.

But the food will still steal the show, Karpaty said. Four types of pizzas will be made in four different custom-built pizza ovens imported from Italy. One of the ovens, positioned near the sidewalk for high visibility, will cook pizzas at 900 degrees – in 90 seconds.

"It comes down to food," he said. "I guarantee our food will exceed any theme."

The third venue, District 30, at 1022 K St., will be the most modern of the venues. An artistic glass facade will use movable photos of art, flowers and people, set behind 4-x-4-foot glass panels to create the front exterior. A covered patio in front will open onto a sidewalk seating area.

Inside, a 600-square-foot dance floor will share space with a 30-foot bar, "ultra" VIP areas and "peek-a-boo" booths with small cutouts in the backs so customers can interact and people watch. The club will hold up to 300. Finishes will be created with exotic materials including woods from Japan and France and ostrich skin.

The bar will use music to attract a crowd of mature, experienced clientele aged 30 to 50. The idea was to create a place for people who want to have fun and socialize, and who know how to have a good time without causing trouble, he said, adding that people shouldn’t have to stop going to dance clubs just because they may no longer be in their 20s.

"Why is it that, when you turn 30, you can’t go to a dance club? That’s just nutty," he said. "People will look at this and go — ‘Oh, finally: Something for grownups.’ "

Last February, Karpaty said he expected all three venues to be open by late summer. They are now expected to open in October. Work by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to add an electrical transformer to power the buildings in an underground vault under the sidewalk in front is delaying the opening by a few weeks, Karpaty said.

SMUD is waiting for the customer to finish work on the vault and then will install the transformer, said SMUD spokeswoman Dace Udris.

Karpaty will be leasing three spaces at 1016, 1020 and 1022 K St. from developer David Taylor. Taylor is redeveloping the long-vacant building, as well as one next door at 1012 K St., with $5.7 million in city subsidies tied to the sale of the Sheraton Hotel. Karpaty plans to invest up to $2 million on the venues, he said Thursday.

In 2008, the city agreed to split $50 million in profits from the sale of the $130 million hotel with Taylor and CIM for development in the J, K and L streets corridor. The developers are still pursuing tenants for 1012 K St. Taylor also turned an old Woolworth’s into the Cosmopolitan next door.

Karpaty and a friend, Adam Goldstein — a Los Angeles DJ and musician known as DJ AM — began looking for opportunities to open an entertainment venue here three years ago. Their idea was to open a megaclub. They toured dozens of Sacramento clubs and bars for six months while searching for the right spot.

"We saw opportunities other people didn’t," Karpaty said.

Goldstein died of a drug overdose last summer. But Karpaty didn’t give up. The broker who originally helped them in their quest called back to suggest Taylor’s project on K Street. The ability of nearby venues to thrive — even though they were the first few to open on and around the long-troubled pedestrian mall — told him Sacramento had "an appetite for high-end (even) in a horrible economy," Karpaty said.

"We didn’t want to wait to be the last one on the island," he said.


Photos by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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