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Busting a Move Beyond the Strand

New owners expand the dance floor and stage and rename the South Bay hot spot Club Caprice.

June 12, 1997|TRACY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The castle-like structure of stone and brick that sits near the end of Redondo Beach like something out of "Hansel and Gretel" is full of club lore that some would say reads just like a fairy tale.

It opened as the Plush Horse back in the 1960s, an Old World family steakhouse and hangout. Twenty years later it became Annabelle's, a hot singles bar popular among the college crowd. Then it became the Strand, the biggest nightclub in all the South Bay and home to some of the biggest retro acts around until it closed because of a lease disagreement with the landlord.

Now new owners are hoping the 2-month-old Club Caprice will live happily ever after as one of the latest additions to the growing South Bay night scene.

At Planet 2000 Dance Night, which attracts a mostly Asian American clientele, the pulsating sounds of hip-hop and house are the mainstay. Groovesters move on the spacious oak dance floor with enough elbow room to try out slick moves, but not so much that they are dancing alone.

Two fly girls are on rising platforms centered in the middle of the room, their bodies gyrating with the sounds as multicolor laser lights bounce across them and over the dance floor. It is all part of the new ambience created by owner Peter Wang, who installed a $150,000 lighting and sound system.

Those lacking dance fever hang out in the lounge area overlooking the dance floor. One end of the lounge looks like a set of bleachers with bar stools and tables set up on a multilevel space. Across the room, between the three full bars and a station that serves up beer and shots, the young clubbers look on from eye level. Unlike most clubs, everyone here seems to find a seat.

Though the Saturday dance night (cover $12) is as crowded as they come, Club Caprice is seeking to become more like the Strand--a concert club that catered to big bands who prefer to play the club scene. Last week, old-timers America headlined Caprice and in upcoming weeks the club has booked Young Dubliners, Blasters, Freddy Fender and Fishbone.

Club Caprice is still trying to carve out a niche. Ultimately, its operators want to book lots of swing and wave acts and already have several lined up. Last month, the club started a comedy night on Wednesdays, featuring five comics for $8 and also experimented with a KZLA country dance night. It's not clear whether that will fly, but promoters are hopeful.

After all, they've got plenty of space. The Strand was known as the largest dance club in the South Bay, and Caprice's owners have expanded the stage, doubled the size of the dance floor and plan to renovate the 8,000 square feet of unused space in the back so they can do big parties and banquets.

And then, of course, they've got that great facade. The strong stone archways, stately windows and brick walkways make it look like it should be somewhere far away, not a few blocks from the beach.

BE THERE

Club Caprice, 1700 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. (310) 316-1700. Cover varies. Free valet parking.

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