Sunday, January 20, 2008

From Paul Libertore

Paul Liberatore: Fans get 2 Sweetwaters instead of 1
Paul Liberatore

Live music fans have been freaked out about losing Sweetwater, the beloved Mill Valley nightclub that closed last year when it lost its lease.
The way it looks now, their prayers for a new Sweetwater have been answered and then some. In fact, Marin may end up with two Sweetwaters instead of one. Here's the scoop:

The original Sweetwater Saloon that everyone knew and loved for 37 years is expected to reopen in a new location in downtown Mill Valley this spring.

In July, a couple of months before they had to close the club, Sweetwater owners Becky and Thom Steere took over the Larkspur Cafe Theater, which they have just renamed Sweetwater Station.

The new name immediately rekindles speculation that the Larkspur venue at 500 Magnolia Ave. replaces the old Mill Valley Sweetwater. The Steeres insist that isn't the case, reiterating that they plan on reopening in Mill Valley as soon as they can.

"I don't want people to think, 'Oh, yeah, they're moving Sweetwater to Larkspur,'" Becky told me when the name change became official this week. "I want to make it clear that Sweetwater Mill Valley is opening soon. These are two separate entities."

The Steeres decided to have Sweetwater in the name because they wanted patrons to

know that it's being run by the same people who ran the Mill Valley club.
"I wanted to have it connected to Sweetwater because it is a music club, not a theater," Becky explained. "Everyone said, 'So why don't you call it Sweetwater something?'"

Sweetwater Station was inspired by the fact that the bar portion of the building, a historic landmark built in 1870, was once the stationmaster's house for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad.

"He raised something like 10 kids in it," Becky said. "Right behind us is the old stucco hut where passengers used to wait for the train."

In addition to connecting the Mill Valley Sweetwater with its sister venue in Larkspur, the new name also eliminates a lot of confusion with other places in town, and it's a lot less clunky than the old one.

"We were constantly getting confused with the Lark Theater and the Lark Creek Inn and everything else," Becky said. "And did you ever try to answer the phone and say 'Larkspur Cafe Theater' when you're in a hurry?"

Mill Valley's Sweetwater Saloon is slated to move into 32 Miller Ave., the former Greenwood home furnishings and gift store, which is just around the corner from the original club on Throckmorton Avenue. The landlord is renovating the building, so the Steeres are uncertain about a move-in date, although they're hoping to reopen sometime this spring.

Unlike the Mill Valley Sweetwater, which is a bar and nightclub, Sweetwater Station is an all-ages venue that offers a dinner menu, serves just wine and beer, books quieter, more acoustic music and caters to an earlier crowd.

The Steeres picked the new name from some 75 suggestions from musicians, customers and everyone else who wanted to weigh in on the subject.

"Everybody said they liked Sweetwater Station," Becky said. "It's easy. Sweetwater Station just fit."

An interesting online thing about the wonderful Mr Larry Brilliant may be read at