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MUSIC | LOCAL ANGLE

Lotsa Rock, No Cover

McRed's has plenty of live music plus TVs and a pool table.

October 22, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

On the back wall of the parking lot behind McRed's in North Hollywood are the painted silhouettes of frolicking Smurfs with balloons. Boy, I'll bet Valley cops long for that scenario, but that's another story.

McRed's, which has been there for more than 50 years, is a cozy dive bar with tables, booths and fake flowers, one pool table, a bunch of televisions and a parquet floor, no doubt intended to impress misplaced Celtic fans.

It's an over-21 place and there's never a cover or the dreaded drink minimums. And, yes, once upon a time, there were two guys named Mack and Red, who gave the joint its name.

Then there's the entertainment. On a recent slow weeknight, just for any worry warts at the bar who might be freaking out about that leaky faucet back home, the TV was showing a most un-bar-like program, "How to Fix Your Broken Sink" on the Home Channel.

Owner Michael Saliman, a veteran bar owner, is the Man with the Plan as far as making McRed's a viable alternative to the zillion other bars in the immediate area.

"I have changed my whole method of running a bar. It's not just alcohol, getting drunk, then getting busted by the cops. We have a pool table, two satellites and four televisions. We offer entertainment at McRed's, instead of just sitting there getting drunk, looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling sad."

A large portion of the entertainment at McRed's is provided by live rock bands, lots of them. Bands squeeze onto the small stage and play nightly from Thursday through Sunday, with some of the more popular repeat offenders being the Vengeance Brothers, Revolution Child and the One-Eyed Jacks.

Bands that perform Thursdays are videotaped and later showcased on a local cable channel. And, at McRed's, it's good news for rock fans because they've all but eliminated those free BMWs (Basic Monotonous Waits) that nearly every venue provides between bands.

"Friday and Saturday we have up to five bands a night. Each band has 10 minutes to set up, 40 minutes to play, then 10 more minutes to break everything down so the next band can play. Then on Sundays, we have three or four more bands."

Saliman hopes the rock 'n' roll thing will be his salvation because there always seems to be more bands than venues for them to play in. He also wants to increase his clientele from those within the immediate area or within staggering distance of McRed's.

"There are too many bars in the area. It's like a pizza--when you share it, suddenly there's none left. That's why you can't just cater to the regulars and the locals, you have to bring in outside people. The only way I can make this place successful is to get these bands from outside the area that will bring their fans to see them, and if those people have a good time, then they'll come back."

But it's not all rock 'n' roll, great TV and free beer these days in the bar biz, according to Saliman. It's becoming a lot like, well, work.

"The rent here is ridiculous. The landlord won't spend a dime on anything, and the ABC is not making things any easier. Running a bar is not lucrative anymore. It used to be a tax write-off before you retired, but now it's just hard work. This is my third bar, and it's like a new hole in my head."

BE THERE

McRed's, 13235 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 980- 2845. For band bookings, call (818) 894-0110.

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