Venice California's famed WITZEND music showcase club is closing this Saturday night. WITZEND is more than a club, it is a creative compound with a restaurant, bar, a live music venue, an animation company (Wit Animation), and several live/work rentals where traveling artists could stay while performing. In the 1960s the building was the 4H Club bar and restaurant frequented by Jim Morrison & The Doors and Gregory Hines, who was the lead singer in the house band for several years. In the late 70s the building was repurposed for retail and later remodeled again to became home to Mad Dog Studios and then Stanley Recordings. (photo is Dona Oxford at the Witzend)
In 2005 Jeb Milne purchased the building and made it the headquarters of WIT ANIMATION. In 2009, after two years working with the neighborhood and the city, Jeb got the permits to bring it back to its roots as a restaurant, bar and entertainment venue. In June 2010 a car drove into the building and cracked the south-facing wall and the City required the entire building to be retrofitted (earthquake safe). In June 2011 the retrofit was finally completed and WITZEND opened its doors to the public featuring live entertainment nightly, along with great food and drink (loved the pear salad).
Jeb, and later his family when he passed away in 2013, built the WITZEND into one of LA's finest showcase clubs. Artists loved the high end sound system and a multiple camera video system and a vibe that encouraged the audience to shut up and listen (which they mostly did). Audiences loved it for the high quality and diversity of the talent, the intimacy (sometimes you were so closed in the front row you held the mic stands steady), the good food and really great staff. In 2015, WITZEND brought in Lauri Reimer to book and produce shows and she instituted everything from hip hop dance nights to monthly jazz. Audiences loved it and there were few nights that did not have standing room crowds.
As of now no reason has been given for the closing, which will leave Westside LA without a high quality, all ages showcase club for live music. Music fans and bands will likely gravitate to the Basement Tavern, the Trip, the Del Monte, Harvelles, and McCabe's for folk and Americana. But without WITZEND there is a hole in the heart and the culture of Los Angeles.
Doña Oxford's last gig at the WITZEND before it closes this week. (May 2014)
An earlier performance when the "Witzend" sign was still on the stage back behind the bands.