Once dubbed 'Bay Area's best rock club,' Oakland venue closes doors for good

Robbin Green-Yeh, the owner of The Uptown, said she doesn't think live music venues are safe to open amid the pandemic. It’s one reason why the popular nightclub in Oakland is closing its doors for good.

Green-Yeh called it a heartbreaking decision. She said she couldn’t afford to wait given there’s too much uncertainly of when and how to safely reopen. Green-Yeh knows of more than a handful of other nightclubs planning to close their doors.

From rock band, Green Day, to more recently, R&B artist Raphael Saadiq, countless performers have graced the stage of the Uptown in Oakland. The performance and event venue evolved from when it first opened in 2007 as a rock club to now featuring all genres.

“It was a joy to be here every night to see the amazing talents of this area on our stage,” said Green-Yeh.

The nightclub’s stage went dim back in March when all nightclubs were forced to close because of the pandemic.

Six months later, with bills for utilities and insurance piling up and the lease up in November, the owners made the decision to close permanently.

“I’m heartbroken,” said Green-Yeh. “I know it’s the right decision or I wouldn’t have made it but it wasn't easy and I go between tears and sometimes honestly a relief.”

Coincidentally, Green-Yeh is also an internal medicine physician and understands the risks of COVID-19. She knows the virus spreads through respiratory droplets.

“When someone gets up on stage to sing, they are just spewing virus out into the world,” said Green-Yeh.

“I keep seeing them go down and there are several that have gone under in the Bay Area,” said professional skateboarder and musician Tommy Guerrero.

Guerrero is not surprised by the closure and is concerned about the ripple effect.

“Touring bands are really just going to be devastated,” said Guerrero. “They really are losing their way of existing.”

It’s a huge loss for up and coming artists like Kev Choice of Black London Band.

“It’s heartbreaking for us as an Oakland artist, as an Oakland musician and Oakland native,” said Choice.

“If this is happening here, it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen other places as well,” said comedy producer Adam Pearstein.

Some performers are now turning to online and social media as their new stage.

“We are not going to go down without a fight that’s for sure,” said The Golden Bull Nightclub Owner Mark Lynn.

A few blocks away, the Golden Bull Nightclub was on the brink of closure, pivoting and serving pizza and drinks on the sidewalk for now. Lynn is hoping to re-open in the spring. 

“It’s a means to stem the bleeding until we can open back up to do shows,” said Lynn. “We are going to hang in there as long as we can because it’s very important for us to keep live venues going.”

Who will survive? Green-Yeh said likely those with deep pockets tied to big-name entertainment companies and suggested an underground scene may pop up.