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CLUB REVIEW : 50 Bucks Retains Its Underground Charm

August 04, 1995|HEIDI SIEGMUND CUDA

Downtown was club central in the '80s, when clubs such as Al's Bar and Vertigo pretty much owned the town.

Although Al's is still vital on the underground circuit, the revamped 50 Bucks currently hosts the hottest scene east of the Harbor Freeway. The once-tiny art gallery and live music space reopened its doors in June with additional rooms, a much larger stage, rows of seating snagged from an old movie theater and a coffee bar balanced on a giant bowling pin.

With about 5,000 square feet, the colorful club can now comfortably handle up to 500 folks while still maintaining its intimate feel. Although its only entrance used to be through a pool hall called Licha's Santa Fe Grill, customers now have two options. They can enter directly from Santa Fe or still cruise in through Licha's, which is a treat in itself: You can play pool for 25 cents a game (really!), listen to jukebox selections from Javier Solis or Selena, grab a quick drink then dart on in to 50 Bucks.

There, you can enjoy the art selection--many pieces are culled from young neighborhood artists--before listening to live music that's a bargain at cover charges ranging from free to $3.

For those who liked 50 Bucks just as it was--an underground haven--don't fret. Performances are still sporadic and rarely advertised (hint: The next show is next Friday and is headlined by Mecca Normal), and since the club's deejay system was swiped a couple of weeks ago, the music aired between bands comes from an eight-track system whose meager collection includes tapes from the Captain & Tennille and John Schneider. You can't get much more underground than that.

* 50 Bucks at Licha's Santa Fe Grill, 2059 E. 7th St., 18 and over, cover varies, (213) 261-5224.

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