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CLUB SCENE

Serious Billiards and the Blues

March 03, 1995|TIM MAY

Studio City Bar & Grill is at Ventura Boulevard and Vineland Avenue in a large, square room, with three pool tables in one brightly lit corner, about 25 well-spaced tables neatly lined up for dining in front of a stage, and a small bar tucked in a cozy, mirror-lined corner.

Owner Damian Markus, who sold her Beverly Hills-based painting business 2 1/2 years ago, says she didn't know much about nightclubs when she opened the business at the site of the former Charles' Restaurant, but wanted to create a place where people could go to play serious pool and listen to good blues and jazz. She has succeeded.

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THE SCENE: It's just past 10 p.m. on a Saturday, and there's a lively, 30-something crowd in the bar. Each of the three 12-foot pool tables is occupied, but only a few people have shuffled over to listen to the entertainment, beefy blues guitarist Gas House Dave. Actor Tom Vicini--whose last role was the Crypt Master in the movie "Demon Knight"--says he likes the place because the pool tables are "excellent" and "because it feels like a Midwestern kind of bar--nobody's pretentious, nobody's obnoxious. They just want to hang out, have a beer, play pool."

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THE CROWD: Friday nights are packed when bassist Marco Mendoza and his Latin jazz, rhythm and blues band play; other nights are not so busy. The crowd generally is a mix of 25- to 40-year-old actors, movie industry executives, local merchants and instructors from the racquet club across the street. "The room turns over almost every 20 minutes," says Gas House Dave with a groan. "It makes it tough to get anything going--one minute, I've got them almost where I want them, and then, boom! They're out the door and a new group of people is in." The ebb and flow of customers is constant, and adds variety.

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THE MUSIC: Gas House Dave, a regular opening act at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, works for the gas company by day and jams at night. This evening, he's working up a sweat playing Stevie Ray Vaughn and other staples with his trio, and the few who are listening are appreciative. Owner Markus says she carefully selects her entertainment. Mendoza is a big draw, but his band will be on tour in March, so Markus has asked vocalist Sheilah Chambers to fill in.

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THE GOOD: Fish and chips is the appetizer of choice on a brief and inexpensive menu. And with no cover charge, it's hard to beat the bargain blues and jazz. The pool tables are new, smooth and well spaced.

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THE BAD: The building is architecturally drab, and the decor also is a bit plain, featuring dark carpet in the dining room and comfortable but dated chairs. Tables are lit by candles, however, lending a warm, clubby feeling. Markus says a modest redesign is in the works.

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THE WORD: Part of what makes the club such a good find, according to Jim Stoddard, a regular patron, is that "a lot of people don't know about it yet. But word is starting to get around."

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Studio City Bar & Grill, 11002 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Breakfast served starting at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays only. Pool is $8 per hour before 7 p.m. After 7 p.m. tables are $10 per hour Monday to Thursday; Friday to Sunday, $12. Monday night pool tournaments; live entertainment Wednesday to Saturday. No cover, two-drink minimum. Information: (818) 763-7912.

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