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Coach House Owner Plans Club in Santa Ana : Concerts: Venue at the former Rhythm Cafe site is expected to feature more ethnic music when it opens in mid-December.


SANTA ANA — The owner of the Coach House concert club in San Juan Capistrano said Friday that he has taken over the former Rhythm Cafe, which briefly challenged the Coach House's hold on the local concert market early last year.

Gary Folgner, who also owns the Ventura Theatre in Ventura, said that he has signed a 20-year lease for the vacant 550-seat building on Harbor Boulevard at Lake Center Drive. He would not disclose other terms of the lease.

Folgner plans to refurbish the premises and open the club in mid-December under a new name, which he hasn't chosen yet. The building has been vacant since February when the former operators were evicted.

The new club is expected to complement the highly successful Coach House by featuring ethnic acts that have not drawn well in San Juan Capistrano.

"It will allow me to buy the full range of entertainment," Folgner said in an interview Friday. He said that Latin jazz star Tito Puente and soul singers James Ingram and Patti LaBelle are examples of the type of acts he wants to book.

In addition, because some popular acts tour twice a year, Folgner said, he will be able to move them between the two clubs, which are 25 miles apart. He said he is negotiating with Eddie Money, Chris Isaak and Greg Allman to perform at his new site.

"This club will be a good addition to what I do: putting on concerts in Orange County," he said. Under separate operators, the Coach House and the Rhythm Cafe engaged in a sometimes destructive competition for the same acts, he said.

The Rhythm Cafe, at 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., was operated by a partnership called Musicsphere Entertainment in a brief run from late October, 1992, to mid-March, 1993. The club booked such prestigious acts as B.B. King, the Neville Brothers and Los Lobos, but ran into stiff competition from the better-established Coach House.

Mounting losses prompted Newport Beach developer Curt Olson, Rhythm's financial backer, to pull out. The landlord later allowed outside promoters to stage single events. Olson's partner, Michael Feder, tried unsuccessfully to line up new investors in subsequent months.

Among his remodeling chores for the building, Folgner will have to install sound and lighting equipment to replace the equipment owned by Musicsphere, which has removed its property.

Folgner already has been granted an entertainment license by Santa Ana and is seeking a liquor license.

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