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CLUBS in and around Orange County | NIGHT SHIFT

Shore Leave

China Beach canteen offers dance, drink and R&R.

July 02, 1998|GENA PASILLAS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Now's as good a time as any to storm the beach--China Beach Canteen, that is. This San Clemente hot spot's pleasures run from thumping live entertainment to good old rest and relaxation.

China Beach Canteen has live bands Tuesday through Saturday. Jukeboxes provide the entertainment Sundays and Mondays--except during football season, when gridiron action takes center stage.

In tune with the raging disco trend, Friday and Saturday nights are Funk Night and Disco Fever Night, respectively. Last Saturday featured three explosive local bands. Up-and-coming Afrodisiac opened, keeping the dance floor packed with its funky sounds. Later, funk-ish jazz band Corduroy Monkey took the stage, while China Beach's house band, Goldfish, rocked the second dance floor with disco covers.

China Beach draws people from as far north as Santa Monica and as far south as San Diego, owner Kevin Thi said. One reason may be customers who are much too concerned with having a good time to keep tabs on who's paying attention to them. You'll have a hard time finding a snob among the laid-back, happy crowd.

China Beach accommodates short attention spans with four unique rooms and an outside patio. One room's walls have spectacular ocean murals set against black lights. A deserted island awaits the landing of a mysterious ghost ship, lifelike palm trees spring from the floor, and an 8-foot inflatable killer whale smiles down from the ceiling. There's also an oversized disco ball, projecting psychedelic shadows onto the dance floor and stage below.

With fewer distractions, the second dance room allows partyers to focus on the band. Those prone to sensory overload will appreciate the simplicity of a few colored lights and standard bar decor. Each dance room has its own bar; empathy for exiled smokers has prompted plans for a bar on the patio, which gets an exhilarating sea breeze.

Drink prices won't put a damper on anyone's mood: beer, wine and cocktails are $2-$5.

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If your idea of a wild night out on the town doesn't include dancing, there's still plenty to do at China Beach. Pool tables, electronic darts and video games fill the remaining two rooms. And anyone who's a sucker for sitting will rejoice over the abundant chairs, stools and booths.

There's even a lobby, with exotic-fish tanks near a jolly Buddha statuette, for those who can't decide which room to party in. Or check out glossy photos of some of the club's previous entertainers.

More good news: No one is obligated to dress up. Styles range from casual to glamorous, so the fashion police won't be hassling anybody. You'll feel welcome in anything you wear--except gang attire, which will get you turned away. The cover charge varies with the headlining band, but averages $5. But only those 21 and older can hit this beach.

BE THERE

China Beach Canteen, 2371 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente. (949) 492-6228. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. Cover: $3-$10.

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