By Harold George
Sometimes a Great St. Augustine Night comes in small packages, tucked away on a narrow street or in a new place waiting to be discovered. These places often serve a special niche in the social life of St. Augustine, such as the late great Tempo. A small but lively place that featured Latin, Gypsy and other forms of lively dance music, Tempo occupied a space that once was the lobby of the Old Plaza Theatre on Cathedral Place. Anyone remember the Plaza Theatre? I saw and met people at Tempo that I might not have anywhere else. I mourned the closing of Tempo like the loss of a friend.
Then there are places like Stogies Cigar Bar over on Charlotte Street. Stogies has been around since the 90s, or as I like to say “before the turn of the century.” (We get to say that now!) Music, beer and wine flow out of this small space onto the porch and side yard where people of all ages interact as well as any space I have been to. The cozy but lively atmosphere of Stogies reminds me of the vibe I used to feel in some of the pubs I visited on my trip to England way back in the day. If you want a chill experience while listening to some of the city’s finest musicians, Stogies is the place to land.
In my first column, I wrote that “Hornski’s Vinyl Lounge is a party just waiting for its guests.” Well, there’s another party happening over on King Street in the form of Bokeh Bar Gallery. Located at 137 King Street, Bokeh Bar Gallery is a cool intersection of performance space, photo gallery and studio, and local hangout. To quote their Facebook page, Bokeh is “a place of pictures, creative energy and good drink.”
Opening toward the end of 2017, many have discovered this hip spot during the Friday art walks, as it is located next door to the Butterfield Garage. Like its more established neighbor, Bokeh has become a true gathering place for artists and individuals craving creative interaction.
You wouldn’t be wrong to think you had walked into a photographer’s studio, because in one sense you have. The first thing you will notice upon arrival is the gallery of photos of local musicians taken by house photographer Tucker Joenz. Joenz maintains a studio in the back of Bokeh, which is also available for rent by other artists. Live shoots are just as likely to occur as the tapping of a keg of local brew, and guests of Bokeh are often encouraged to take part in these photo happenings.
It’s this sort of interactive experience that drew me to a really fun event this past week — on May 31 Bokeh hosted “Open Mic Comedy Night” with Jen O’Loughlin. I went to support a friend who was trying out her chops at stand up comedy for the first time, and was super happy that I did. It turned out to be one of the coolest nights I had experienced in a while, and my friend killed it with her first venture into the comedy world. Jen O’Loughlin did a great job as both a host and the leading comic for the night, setting a stage that was both entertaining and encouraging. I came SO CLOSE to going up to the mic myself. I’ve got good stories to tell, right?
Just like a traditional open mic night, people signed up and came to the stage as Jen called them out, in between relating stories of her travels between here and San Francisco, as well as her participation in the world of golf. Who knew golf could be funny? I want to hear more from Jen! Participants varied in style, talent and energy, and even included some local musicians showing a different side of themselves. For me, the best part about the night and about Bokeh Bar Gallery, was we were in it together.
I didn’t make it up to the mic myself that night, but I am seriously considering it for the next Open Mic Comedy Night, this Thursday June 7. I know I can’t wait to see what happens that night, and who shows up. So, if you are curious as to whom amongst your friends, family and other cool people in town also has a knack for being funny, show up at 7pm. It’s FREE, and risk free.