Flore shows" iconic cafe becomes hot nightspot
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Popular Castro eatery Flore, formerly known as Café Flore, has launched an evening entertainment series called Flore at Night, with an array of music, comedy and drag shows.
"Flore has been an important part of the Castro since 1973," said Flore Event Coordinator Dan Karkoska. "Everyone has a Flore story about something important that happened to them there. It's where Dennis Peron met and shared a joint with Brownie Mary and the modern medicinal cannabis movement was born. It has been a gathering place for every kind of celebration or date you can imagine. We intend on providing plenty more stories with the Flore at Night programming."
"Flore at Night is the return to evening programming at Flore," added co-owner Terrance Alan. "Flore has been without evening activity for years now and with so many talented people in our community, it's logical that Flore become an evening showcase. In January, we opened our doors to the folks at Paint Night to see if there was interest in the community for evening activities. Yes, after many a sold out night there is interest and we brainstormed what to do next."
In addition to Paint Night on Tuesdays, which includes a teacher plus paints and canvas boards, Flore at Night now includes Karaoke Dokey and Club 88. Club 88 offers the musical stylings of Maria Konner, Kitten on the Keys and Alan Choy tinkling away at the piano for evenings of classic rock, pop and show tune sing-alongs.
Konner hosts and performs on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 9 PM to midnight, Kitten on the Keys on the second Wednesday and Alan Choy on the fourth. An evening of comedy, featuring Marga Gomez, Natasha Muse and Casey Ley hosting on rotating nights, is now in the planning stages for Friday evenings.
Karkoska was particularly excited about Club 88.
"All three performers have been doing this forever," he said. "Maria Konner loves an audience to show off for. She is an amazing talent. Kitten on the Keys performs all over town and is so full of the love of entertaining that we bonded immediately when we met. Alan is quieter of the three and that makes him more stealth as he glides his fingers smoothly over the piano keys."
For Kitten on the Keys, aka Suzanne Ramsey, performing at Club 88 is a homecoming.
"I'm from the Bay Area. In the late '70s and early '80s, Café Flore was my hangout spot before and after punk rock and new wave shows with my buddies," she recalls. "Here I am, middle-aged, still living in San Francisco, and I get to play piano for singers at my old high school haunt!
"My piano bar hostess is a little bit rock and roll cabaret with a reservoir of the Great American Songbook, as well as Bowie, Queen, Elton, and a dash of Mary Poppins," said Ramsey of her repertoire. "I have always fantasized about playing piano for a super-stoner sing along-dream come true."
Maria Konner said that she's excited about the new sound and lighting systems at Flore, which she feels will enhance her performances.
"Club 88 will bring a lively participatory vibe to the Castro where patrons will be encouraged to bring their friends and energy to the show," Konner said. "We expect the music to include not only great sing-along classics, but also the occasional tearjerker torch song or jazz standards. We'll be advertising on sites geared towards tourists where we hope to mix locals and tourists, gay and straight, to engender a fun atmosphere where we can share the culture and values of this great city."
Konner added that she's looking forward to performing for a diverse crowd.
"We hope this show represents what San Francisco is all about."
Karkoska noted that a new stage has been built for the Flore at Night shows.
"I remember DJing unsteadily while standing on milk cartons in the back so I could see over the counter," he said. "So we had a stage built that we can wheel in and set up, we added a new light system and gave the sound an update."
He hopes people will also check out Karaoke Dokey on Thursday nights from 9-11 PM.
"We have an exciting hostess, Monty Quilla, who has been performing at all the drag shows around town," Karkoska said. "She brings a Hello Kitty-meets-M.I.A. flair to the night, and really knows how to bring the fun to a party. She is sweet, talented and amazing. She will do a great job."
Karkoska feels that Flore at Night can be an antidote to the changing face of the city.
"We want Flore at Night to have the feeling of classic San Francisco," he said. "These days, with all kinds of buildings going up and coming down, it's nice to have a familiar place you can go to and relax. You can see a show, maybe sing along, have good food and drinks. See friends, maybe make a new one. Flore at Night shines like a beacon in the Castro inviting everyone to come in and begin another Flore story."
But Terrance Alan feels that change is a good thing for the café.
"Flore is always changing to serve the new LGBTQ community and every community who walks into our doors," he said. "Flore at Night is a part of that change you are seeing. Our craft cocktail bar, new menu make up today's Flore. What will keep the place going is staying a place to be, like we have been since 1973."
Flore, 2298 Market Street. http://flore415.com/