Slim’s Operators Eye Berkeley

The operators of Slim’s and the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco are quietly preparing to expand their nightclub reach across the bay to Berkeley, proposing to turn a shuttered 1,440-seat movie theatre in the city’s burgeoning downtown arts district into a concert hall.

An application to convert the UC Theatre, which was closed eight years ago, has been filed with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board. The first hearing on the proposal was to take place Aug. 13.

The project was approved by Berkeley’s planning commission in May and so far appears to be winning bureaucratic blessings, including a city staff recommendation, with some conditions. Acoustical upgrades to minimize vibration and noise will likely be necessary to bring the 1920s-era building to current standards, though the city staff report indicates seismic upgrades have already been completed.

Slim’s GM and talent buyer Dawn Holliday and BGP veteran Dave Mayeri, who has managed all-ages venues including Shoreline Amphitheatre, Sleep Train Pavilion, the Fillmore, Warfield and Punchline Comedy Club, signed the application.

Their intent in taking over the UC Theatre is to “create an anchor for the Downtown Arts District on University Avenue and help fulfill the City of Berkeley’s goal of making its Downtown into the East Bay’s regional center for art and culture,” according to a proposal letter filed with the application.

As with Slim’s and GAMH, the three-tiered venue is proposed to provide full bar service and seated dining, with an adjacent storefront being converted into a kitchen and a café connected to the lobby. As with the San Francisco clubs, the Berkeley venue will operate under a “bona fide eating place liquor license” or equivalent.

In recent months, California Alcoholic Beverage Control’s San Francisco office has cracked down on all-ages clubs including Slim’s, GAMH, Bottom of the Hill and Café du Nord, often citing minutiae from liquor license applications such as hours of operation, ratio of food to alcohol sales and other minor issues.

According to the papers filed with the planning commission, the new operation would create approximately 150 full- and part-time jobs in a renovated venue with “industry state-of-the-art” sound and lighting, excellent sight lines from all three levels, expanded restroom facilities and other improvements.

Holliday told Pollstar it was far too early in the process for comment on the proposal. It would likely be some time before the first performer takes the stage of the UC Theater building.

If the plan receives Zoning Adjustment Board approval, the next step in the process is to complete the streamlined permit act process by Sept. 4, as well as complete follow-up inspections and acoustical testing.