The little dive bar on the corner
Ben and Gabi Garcia, owners of the Blue Lamp
Gabi and Ben Garcia are the new co-owners behind longtime Sacramento bar and music venue Blue Lamp. Married for eight years, the couple jumped at the chance to buy the venue last fall from its previous owners. Ben, a musician and vocalist with more than 10 years as former frontman to the hardcore band Hoods, brings the music-based expertise to the biz, while Gabi's 20-plus years of bartending and management experience made for the perfect mix when it came time to revamping the business. Previously, the Blue Lamp hosted rock bands such as the Business, Black Lips and High on Fire. Now, the Garcias say they aim to embrace a neighborhood-bar feel—but also want the place to double as an intimate club with great sound. Rock-star attitudes take note: Ben won't have it. Still, he adds, he'll do whatever it takes to make musicians feel welcomed, “as long as it's not too crazy.”
What makes a good neighborhood bar?
Ben: Whiskey. (Laughs.)
Gabi: Good bartenders and good regulars. That's what makes a good neighborhood bar.
Is this more of a beer-and-a-shot kind of bar?
Gabi: I've been a bartender for a long time, so I love making cocktails, but we tend to be a beer and shot bar right now. We are bringing in a lot of local distillers like Tahoe Blue Vodka, and we're putting all local craft beer on our tap system. We'll never be a craft-cocktail bar like Shady Lady [Saloon] or [The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar], but we want to make really good products and support our local community.
Does new ownership mean the Blue Lamp has a different focus?
Gabi: We definitely want to bring that neighborhood-bar feel to the live-music venue, similar to [what] a lot of the clubs in San Francisco [are doing]. We also want to bring in some different types of music that [the previous owners] didn't toy with before, like country, hip-hop and reggae. We want to expand the genres of music and allow a lot of the local bands to expand their fan base here. We want to have that little divey bar that has really great sound.
What’s new during the week?
Gabi: Naughty Trivia on Wednesdays with all its sex orientation, anatomy and fetish-type of questions. We have adult-theme cocktails that are really fruity and yummy. We've had a Cherry Popper, a Dirty Whore and every week, we have two new cocktails. We also have penis straws, and if you bring your straw back, you get $1 off your cocktails. It has evolved into its own thing. It's just dirty trivia, and you can win bar prizes and gift certificates.
What should bands know?
Ben: I don't want to make money off of bands, because bands don't make any money. We give them the door, and we collect the bar. … I know what it's like touring and only getting paid $40 [or] $20, or not getting paid. I know the ups and downs of being in a band and what [musicians] would like, and how they'd like to be treated.
What music are you both listening to right now?
Ben: Hank3, Bob Wayne and Hank [Williams] Sr., all the good ol' guys, you know?
Gabi: We've been listening to a lot of old-school outlaw country, because we have Bob Wayne coming.
What’s the Blue Lamp charm?
Ben: It's a punk-rock, divey little spot with a small stage. We're not a very big club. Instead, we're real intimate with the bands, and that's what I like. When playing shows, I hate it when there's a tall stage and a barrier with 15 guards in front of you. I'm not into the whole rock-star thing. I like being up close and personal with the bands because it makes it better. Growing up as a kid and going to shows, that's how I grew up in the scene.
Worst job at the bar?
Gabi: It's [cleaning] the bathrooms—men's and women's.