Venice West stage

 Venice West

VENICE- The Venice West, Venice's newest live music venue, is set to opens its doors tonight.

“You have a history of arts and culture and eccentricity here,” said Rob Lissner, one of the owners of The Venice West, “but there was no proper place to see music. I just got tired of going across the 405 to see music. So, I had the idea with some friends that we really need a mainstay music venue for anybody in Venice and the west side to go to.” 

Lissner said the club was supposed to open three years ago, but planning setbacks followed by the pandemic delayed their debut until now.

Located at the corner of Lincoln and Superba, The Venice West occupies the space that formerly housed WitZend, another live music venue.

“This is a pretty historical location,” said Lissner, a 20-year resident of Venice. “It actually used to be called the Four H club (Honky Hoagies Handy Hangout). Gregory Hines was in the house band.”

Walking around the interior as finishing touches are put on the space, Lissner points out the posters and pictures that are an homage to Venice’s creative past. Even the name “The Venice West” is an homage to the lesser known “Beat” scene in Venice, as photos of poets and musicians hanging out in old Beat hangouts such as Venice West Café and the Gas House cover the walls.

 “We’re trying to have a loose affiliation with that time without being a museum and going too deep on it,” said Lissner, who also runs the BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach with his business partner, Allen Sanford.

The Venice West, with an estimated capacity of 200-250, is set to open with a full weekend. Matt Costa performs on Friday, October 8, followed by veteran touring act The Samples on Saturday, October 9, and legendary reggae outfit The Wailers on Sunday, October 10.

A few more shows are booked at the end of October, and Lissner said about 10 more shows are waiting to be confirmed and announced. For now, he said they’ll host gigs on weekends with plans to expand to six nights a week. It’s also possible they’ll expand to comedy and other performing arts, including partnerships with local groups such as the Venice Heritage Museum.

“I'm going to program it for probably not 20-year-olds,” the fortysomething Lissner said. “I think there's a whole slew of people who are 30-plus who want to see some of those bands they don't know as much and they want to see some of those bands they do know, like the Samples or the Wailers. So, I think it'll be a good mix.” 

In addition to national acts, Lissner said they’ve enlisted the help of local musician Tom Freund to help recruit local acts.

“You know, I think we're going to be a great place for the local bands to play.”

With a full bar including local beers, The Venice West will also serve food.

“We're going to have pizzas, we'll have a bunch of share plates and burgers and sandwiches and a couple of chicken dishes and things like that,” Lissner said, adding they may eventually add a brunch menu. “It’s pretty straightforward, but we don’t want it to be bar food.”

Lissner said he’s glad Venice is getting more music venues, such as the recently opened Winston House, to serve different musical tastes in Venice and surrounding communities. 

“The goal here is to have a place where people in the neighborhood can come and have a good time,” he said. “People just want to have a cool spot to come have a beer and watch some music.”

“It'll be interesting, you know. Opening in the face of the pandemic is maybe a fool's journey. But it's time. And I think that people are ready, and we're psyched to get it going and it's been a long time coming.”

Born in Kentucky, Doug Rapp now calls 90291 home. Before joining the Venice Current, his writing appeared in outlets throughout the Midwest. He is also a script analyst for writing competitions in L.A. and New York City.