This club, modeled after an Eastern European wooden synagogue, is a Berkeley institution dedicated to dance and music. The non-profit venue hosts live music nearly every night, and shows are all-ages. Ashkenaz hosts reggae, bluegrass, Balkan, Brazillian, Cajun, and Caribbean bands, just to name a few. Come early for a dance class or on Sunday afternoon for a kid’s concert.
With eight full bars, a billiards room, smoking lounge, and multiple dance floors, it's easy to believe Bench and Bar's claim to the title of the Bay Area's biggest gay and lesbian dance club. The Friday night Latin Explosion party moved with the name to this Uptown location, (though other Bench and Bar favorites remain at what is now Club 21 a few blocks away), and Saturdays is Club Rimshot, a hip-hop and R&B LGBT party. Other nights are a mix of dance, house, and Latin music. A daily happy hour and free wi-fi cater to the after-work crowd.
Just five minutes from the Oakland Airport, the lounge keeps classic R&B, jazz, and doo-wop alive with live bands each weekend. Its website proclaims it a destination for "mature adults."
1220 has been a mainstay of gay nightlife in Contra Costa for three decades. Along with billiards and a red-upholstered lounge area, this club hosts line-dancing every Tuesday night, house and country music on alternating Saturdays, and regular karaoke and drag events.
If salsa dancing is your thing, then Club Montero's is your nightclub. The Albany dance club, voted Best Latin Dance Club in the Express in 2004, features salsa lessons every Friday and Saturday, with live bands on Friday to put your skills to work. Do an underarm turn or take a dip on the huge wooden dance floor underneath a giant palm tree. If you need to take a breather, order a drink at the cabana-style bar or grab a bite to eat at Montero's Cafe next door. The cover charge is $15 on Friday, and $10 on Saturday, and the dress code requires semicasual to evening attire. No sportswear or tennis shoes allowed. Eighteen and over.
Nestled between Alamedas bustling Park Street and Alameda High School, this 92-year-old hall draws about 250 people on Friday nights for dancing to live zydeco, and occasional Saturdays for swing. These weekly gigs are not too unlike a church function -- except for the full bar hidden in the back corner — with punch bowls filled with Oreos, pretzels, and chocolate chip cookies, and regulars who affectionately call each other by name. Tables line the wooden dance floor in this four-hundred-capacity hall, and its easy to see why people of all ages and walks of life from rockabillies to pimply-faced teens in Nirvana T-shirts to your aunt who frequents Ashkenaz come for the guaranteed crowd and, oh yeah, the handy dance lesson beforehand.
This Jack London Square club used to be a hot spot for salsa, but these days it attracts a well-heeled, mature African-American crowd. The huge, open-aired, barnlike venue has two sides: one is a sports bar and billiards hall; the other is a nightclub, karaoke, and comedy club. In both cases, be prepared to adhere to the club's dress-code policy of hard-soled shoes and no T-shirts or sportswear for men, and "sexy attire" for ladies. DJs spin hip-hop and R&B on Friday nights, while Saturday night specifically caters to an older clientele.
Emanating from the softly upholstered furniture, the richly colored linens, the modern-exotic lighting, and the casual seating, the vibe coaxes patrons to relax, to share, to open up — even with strangers. The drinks are neither low-brow nor high-brow; they exist to lubricate social interaction, not dominate it. Regular events include DJ nights, live music nights (featuring members of Rogue Wave, Crown City Rockers, and more), and Layover Comedy Night, where comedians of various stripes test their mettle before accommodating, though nonetheless real crowds. You'd never know — or maybe you would — from the blank street sign out front, featuring only a glowing neon cocktail glass: This place is the real deal.
This downtown club has a DIY-aesthetic and a diverse entertainment lineup — which represents the panoply of Caribbean music from salsa to dancehall roots to Afropop, and open mics, and proffers a savory selection of Jamaican cuisine served for lunch and the late evening.
This narrow Uptown bar has exposed brick walls, high ceilings, and lots of art on the walls. DJs spin everything from house to hip-hop, and soul to Brazilian music. Catch Cuban, reggae, and funk bands performing live. There’s no cover and no dress code. Somar supports the local art scene not just by hanging work on their walls, but also by hosting art events with live figure drawing, installations, and artist talks.
This recently restored large venue dates back to the Art Deco era, when jazz big bands like Count Basie swung almost every night. These days, the occasional live act saunters through to add to the history.
Erected in the building that used to house the Oakland Box, this swank rock club is decked out with a classy mahogany bar inherited from the Old Spaghetti Factory, plus top-notch acoustics designed by the sound consultant at Yoshis. A lot of things have changed since the old Box days, most notably in terms of decor: Bushmamas old boutique is now The Green Room, where performers kick back before going onstage; the clubs sign is now shaped like an electric guitar. The Uptown features local and touring acts in a variety of genres, including hip-hop, soul, rock, and ska. Blue Mondays feature the house blues band led by Paul Wood and special guests.