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High Five for The Chocolate Bar

by Rachel Levin
September 20, 2002
Los Angeles, CA

High Five for The Chocolate Bar

September 20, 2002

After five years of smooth, sweet sounds, the Chocolate Bar celebrated its anniversary Friday night at Zen Sushi in Silverlake. The vibe was classic Chocolate, but the sparse crowd made me wonder: has this unique DJ-driven club passed its peak?

The Chocolate Bar originated as a roaming club-a band of DJs that would travel to different locales on various nights of the week, spreading the sweetness to many Silverlake and midtown venues. Then, for the past 2 years, the club has set up permanent residence at Gabah (Melrose/Normandie) on Saturday nights.

The Chocolate Bar's specialty has always been the freshness of its DJs. Spinning hip hop, old school, rare grooves, and reggae, Chocolate Bar DJs offer a truly "Nu Classic Soul" experience. Many other clubs in the city that feature hip hop limit the variety of music to either hardcore rap, bump-and-grind breakbeats, or top 40 hip hop that is getting pop-station radio play. But the rotating DJs at the Chocolate Bar always mix it up, taking slices of each of these styles and layering in music that is overlooked in the radio landscape.

Consequently, the club has never felt like a place where you have to worry about colors or gang signs, where you are subject to a raunchy "meat market", or where you have to endure a crowd who thinks Nelly's "Hot in Herre" is the essence of hip hop.

The anniversary party, held at Zen Sushi in Silverlake, tried to capture the Chocolate Bar's unique flavor. Downstairs, a live urban jazz band entertained sushi bar goers. Upstairs, a quartet of DJs traded off duties while groups of people lounged under low lights and red paper lanterns. You could definitely tell friends were running into friends, giving high fives and slaps on the backs to other regulars they've encountered over the years. It was relaxing and comfortable. A family reunion of sorts.

But the dance floor was nearly empty.

Maybe it was the $20 cover that kept big crowds away (the usual cover at Gabah is $10). Maybe the switch of locale and night threw off Chocolate Bar aficionados who are only familiar with it from the midtown location. Maybe the followers of the Chocolate Bar's early roaming days have grown up and moved on.

Whatever the reason, it definitely felt like the Chocolate Bar's energy is on the wane. If so, this would be a bitter turn for club-going in Los Angeles. No other hip hop venue has allowed me to feel so at home while grooving with my friends or meeting new ones. I will be interested to see if the Chocolate Bar can reinvigorate its energy or if another club will pick up where this sweet, soulful venture has left off.


Where to find The Chocolate Bar

4658 Melrose (at Normandie)
Los Angeles, CA
323-860-8873
Saturday Nights 10pm-2am
Hip-hop, old school, reggae, dancehall
$10 cover

Read Rachel Levin's original creative non-fiction story about The Chocolate Bar.

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