L.A.’s Satellite Club Closes for Good; Owner Says ‘Indie Venues Are Screwed’

L.A.’s Satellite club — a mainstay of the Silver Lake music scene for 25 years that has hosted major acts like Lady Gaga, Beck, the White Stripes and the Foo Fighters — is closed for good, its owners announced Friday.

Shut down since March 12 due to the pandemic, the nightspot has already removed its stage and is being transformed into a sit-down restaurant, because of the dim chances of live music returning any time soon, the club revealed in social media posts.

“It has really hit us hard,” the club said in a Facebook message. “We can no longer afford to wait for the day we will be allowed to have shows again. If we do that, we will not have the money to continue and will be forced to close forever. We are currently removing the stage and redesigning the club to be more of a place to get good quality drinks and food.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, owner Jeff Wolfram said, “We’re still figuring a lot of it out but we know we’re not doing live music anymore. That’s just not in our future.”

Wolfram had started a GoFundMe to support employees after the lockdown started but called it off after contributions dwindled and he saw chances of reopening looking less and less likely. “People think, ‘Oh, you own a venue, you must be rich.’ No, not at all,” Wolfram told the Times. “Every small venue, we operate on restaurant margins. You don’t make money, but you do it because you love it. … Live Nation and Goldenvoice will be fine, but indie venues are screwed.”

The club’s Facebook post said, “It personally has been an amazing 25 years of live music and dance parties. I will miss those days but it is time for us to move on. I would hope that you will support groups like NIVA. They are trying to raise support in Congress and the Senate to help out all the Independent clubs in the US so they do not have to change format like we did or just close the doors forever.”

 

Wolfram told Los Angeles magazine that even if the Satellite had been allowed to reopen immediately, it still would have faced a tough go of it. “Do we want to go back to the huge competition,” he said, “or become something different and hopefully survive? We’re trying to figure out where we’re going next. At this point we’re winging it.”

Over the years, the Satellite had been known by any number of names — including Dreams of L.A., a sign that continued to hang over the building decades after it had operated under that moniker as a gay club. When Spaceland took over the space in the mid-’90s, it was confusingly known for a time as “Spaceland at Dreams of L.A.” Mitchell Frank took over operations of the club in 1995 as the biggest component of a trio of venues in the Silver Lake/Echo Park area that also included the Echo and the Echoplex. The Killers, Silversun Pickups, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Snow Patrol and Jane’s Addiction were some of the other bands that played Spaceland in its heyday. At the end of 2010, Frank took his leave and the club reverted to its branding as the Satellite. Gaga played there on her promotional Dive Bar tour in 2016.

In some ways, the club will be getting back to its roots by becoming a restaurant, as it had been a German-style eatery in the 1960s before being purchased by Wolfram’s family and turned into a dance club. “This redesign is more sad than any of them,” Wolfram told the Times. “I love the live music. I loved seeing the shows. It broke my heart to have to change this again.”

For the time being, Wolfram is focusing on transforming the famously small parking lot into a spot for outdoor dining, especially with indoor service having once again been barred in the county. L.A. music fans are hoping, of course, that the Satellite throwing in the towel is not a harbinger for the fate of more venerable clubs in L.A. that have now been shuttered for four months and are looking at prognostications of at least that amount of time, if not far longer, before shows can resume again.

(Below, a clip from a night in 2014 when Susanna Hoffs, Petra Haden and Fred Armisen played the Satellite.)

 

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