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Pelican's Retreat Sizzles to Reggae Beat

July 01, 1994|JEFF SCHNAUFER

Where can you get a ticket to paradise on Tuesday night and return in time for work the next day--without jet lag? Nestled against the hills of Calabasas is a different sort of retreat--Pelican's Retreat--where every Tuesday night is filled with rhythmic reggae, friendly natives and an atmosphere that can only be described as sizzling.

THE SCENE: This restaurant / nightclub becomes an urban oasis when the band, Urban Dread, shows up about 9:30 every Tuesday night. Revelers begin spilling onto the sawdust-strewn dance floor or stake their claim at a cozy table under the wooden rafters. Harpoons, life preservers and wooden pelicans add to the castaway feel. And there are two patios, a pair of pool tables and three bars that are perfect for kicking back or getting to know someone more intimately.

THE CROWD: Tuesday's reggae night draws a more diverse cast of characters than "Gilligan's Island." Some are magnetic, like Leon Siff, the 66-year-old "vibrating man" from West Hills who hops around the dance floor. Nearly all are creatures of energy--in their early 20s--who submerge themselves in the flow of music. Sexy, tropical fashion--from bellybutton rings to grass skirts, often decorate the dance floor. It's almost impossible not to be friendly here. By midnight, it's standing room only.

THE MUSIC: Urban Dread sends out soothing waves of reggae that spark the most primal instinct to dance. From bongo banger to base player, the five-member band sends out a simple message: "No worry, no worry, no worry."

THE GOOD: There's no head-banging, get-out-of-my-space attitude here. "The music brings the people together," said Siff. "You have a younger crowd here, which is very attractive." The mixed drinks are also appealing: try a Pelican's Punch, Cranberry Kamikazi or one of bartender Ken Johnson's "Ken-coctions."

THE BAD: "The only bad thing is that it gets too crowded," said Gail Smith, 21, of Thousand Oaks. "Sometimes you can't even walk through here."

Pelican's Retreat, 24454 Calabasas Road, Calabasas, hosts Urban Dread for reggae night from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Tuesdays. Cover charge is $5. (818) 222-1155.

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