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The Street's Got the Beat

A couple of new clubs--the Mix and Mercury--have awakened once-sleepy Main in Santa Monica.

September 21, 2000|DIANNE BATES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Santa Monica's Main Street has managed to mix the gentry with the lower classes quite well over the years. Trendy, upscale restaurants such as Chinois fit admirably next to reasonably priced ethnic eateries and European-style sandwich shops. Locals used to walk to dinner from their cute, expensive bungalows and then walk home and stay there. The place was dead by 10 p.m.

Cruising Main Street? Yeah, right.

Better check again.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic is slowing to check out the scene at the Mix, Circle Bar and Mercury on weekends. Those willing to plug the meters in the public parking lots will find the foot traffic just as congested.

Two new clubs--the Mix and Mercury--are causing most of the commotion.

The Mix was once the Pink, and before that, a neighborhood gay bar called the Pink Elephant. The Pink was for many years a decent dance club with an attitudinous back entrance, but it finally closed Dec. 12. Last June, David Teck, who also owns the wonderland restaurant World Cafe a few doors south, opened the Mix. The entrance is once again on Main Street, the local favorite door guy, Gilbert Coppage, is back, and the atmosphere is SoHo brick mixed with laid-back beach. Patrons dress more to dance than to be seen.

General manager Alex Bower describes himself as a "big-league San Francisco bartender" and makes it very clear that the Mix is not the Pink. "The Pink was too bohemian," he says. "We don't use paper cups. Also, we didn't want to build another St. Marks [now Tantra Bar]. Not another little rave house."

What they did build was a warm room that attracts the post happy-hour crowd--young professionals, and locals in casual work-at-home threads. Drinks run $7 to $12, and there's an admirable wine list. Those wary of Hollywood clubs with a different promotion every night will be glad to know that the Mix has its own regular in-house DJs. DJs Robbie, Brad Fishman, Ron Miller and Dave Roberti spin mostly funk, soul, R&B and some hip-hop. There's no cover at the 120-capacity club, and no food. If you sneak down to Teck's World Cafe, be prepared to stand in line when you get back to the Mix.

"We're too new for Hollywood to find us yet," says Bower. I don't think so, Jack.

*

The Mercury crowd a few blocks south seems a little wilder, but that may be because it's next to O'Brien's patio of beer. That makes for a big noisy group at the corner where the Oarhouse used to be.

Mercury claims it's got the biggest dance floor on the Westside, but I wager Arcadia down on the pier beats them out. The very, very long, streamlined Deco bar looks like a railroad car arrangement, but once the dance floor fills up, you can't see anything but hips anyway. Gone is the peanut-shell-covered floor of the Oarhouse era, but owner Paul Diskin left the brick walls intact. He also brings the room screaming into the 21st century with projections on a round hanging screen and vivid videos on the big TV.

Mercury is waiting on city approval for a new facade, but the club is easy to spot on weekends by the crowd on the sidewalk that always seems in danger of spinning out of control.

DJ Billie T likes techno and hip-hop and even Top 40. Guest DJs show up often. No draft beer here, just plenty of the bottled stuff, and the early crowd digs in to the buffalo shrimp and chicken skewers like they've never eaten before. Must be the beach air. Or maybe it's because the valet parking behind the club is a mere $4, so there's money left for food.

There's little danger that the Westside will ever overtake the Hollywood club scene--especially if snotty security, $15 covers and nonexistent parking haven't made a dent. The draw of Hollywood is Hollywood, after all.

But in Santa Monica, this is not your father's Main Street anymore.

BE THERE

The Mix, 2820 Main St., Santa Monica. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday. No cover. 21 and older. (310) 399-1953.

Mercury, 2941 Main St., Santa Monica. 9 p.m.-2 a.m., Monday through Saturday. $5 cover. 21 and older. (310) 396-6658.

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