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Save The Alley Cat Bar: 3325 Grand Avenue Oakland Needs Our Help To Stay Alive During The Pandemic

Save The Alley! The Alley Cat Bar, the legendary local landmark at 3325 Grand Avenue in Oakland, and that’s so much a part of Oakland’s history, and is one of a few active piano bars in the World, needs our help to stay open during The Pandemic. So let’s save The Alley!

As a long time patron of The Alley, and non-singer made into a “ham-level” Sinatra singer thanks to the late Rod Dibble, who was the piano player from 1960 to 2016, and best known for The Oakland Song, I am calling on all patrons and fans and lovers of Oakland Culture to pitch-in whatever they can and help my long-time friend, Jackie Simpkins, keep The Alley a going concern.

The Alley’s current piano player Brian Seet, has organized a fundraiser using GoFundMe. To date, the effort has raised $7,000 of a needed $75,000 – it’s just 20 hours old as of this writing. You can go there now with a click here. Here’s the details on the effort, as he provided:

SAVE OAKLAND’S ALLEY PIANO BAR FROM CLOSING FOREVER!

(Click on this sentence for the GoFundMe page.)

Dear friends, near and far, old and new,

The historic Alley Piano Bar in Oakland is in imminent danger of closing forever and needs your help!

The Alley has so far delayed asking for the public’s help since having to close its doors mid-March. Jackie Simpkins, owner of The Alley, has relied on PPE and SBA loans to pay The Alley’s mortgage and expenses. But she is now down to a critical level and urgently needs funding for 2021 to keep The Alley alive until she can safely open again.

The Alley’s story:

The Alley, established in 1933, is an Oakland institution that has survived nine decades of economic ups and downs and remains one of the nation’s last traditional piano bars. Honored in 2016 as a local historic property, The Alley has played host to amateur crooners and famous musicians alike. Performers have included Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Merv Griffin, and Lionel Hampton. Countless visitors have passed through the bar’s saloon-style doors over the years, including Dave Brubeck, Greg Allman, Green Day, Steve Bowman from Counting Crows, and Adam Levine from Maroon 5.

The bar has been a “home away from home” for drop-in fans, devoted hard-core regulars, and visitors from around the world who marvel at its uniqueness. It’s the center of a thriving and devoted piano bar community that continues to sing songs from The Great American Songbook, a tradition that was maintained by the late Rodney Dibble, The Alley’s piano player for 50+ years. The Alley was used as a pivotal location for the 2018 film, Blindspotting, featuring Oakland’s Daveed Diggs and Berkeley’s Rafael Casal. It was also used in The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, Diary of A Teenage Girl, and many music videos. The Alley is a place of cultural and historical significance that would be a tragedy to lose due to this pandemic.

The Need:

Though a dim light at the end of the tunnel is at last appearing with the recent release of a COVID vaccine, we anticipate it will be spring or summer before The Alley can safely and sustainably open its doors, especially given the super-spreader nature of one of its main draws – singing. That’s a long five or six months – but it’s only five or six months! If we can get The Alley through this hardest time, we can keep it going into perpetuity and once again gather there for music and community like none other.

How will the funds be used:

If you love the Alley and have been wondering how you might help in its time of need, we’re opening this GoFundMe to help bridge Jackie over until she can safely open the bar. Not only will you be helping ensure that this historical landmark and institution remains as a colorful part of Oakland, but you’ll help preserve its unique piano bar tradition.

The initial target goal of $75,000 for will go to paying The Alley’s mortgage, property tax and utility expenses for the next five to six months. However, Jackie is also facing renovation expenses being required by the Alameda County Health Board of about $100,000. As such, additional funds raised will be used towards these large upcoming expenses. In total, we hope to reach about $175,000.

We know these are difficult times for many, so we especially appreciate anything you can give at this time.

And please share this with others who feel a strong connection to the Alley and may also want to be part of the The Alley’s continued longevity.

Most people who visit the Alley come away with a story or two. And more often than not, they become part of its story – whether it’s marking a place on a wall with a business card, experiencing the magic of applause from singing with a musician (not a machine) for the first time as an “Alley virgin” (even though you’re “not a singer”), or by finding this place you can always come back to that celebrates inclusion, diversity and acceptance in a modern world filled with disconnection. Let’s continue this story…

With gratitude, love, and a song in our heart for better times…

Thank you – The Alley Community

PS. For those who have contributed to previous fundraising efforts that benefited the impacted Alley’s staff from earlier in the pandemic, we thank you so much. Your donations helped sustain The Alley staff as they waited for unemployment insurance to kick in and find alternative work. The Alley’s musicians, Paul Hlebcar, Jef Labes and Bryan Seet also thank you for your continued support of their virtual live streams.

Also, check out the virtual Alley Cat Bar Livestream on Facebook featuring Brian Seet and Jeff Labes, here:

Stay tuned. Happy Holidays!

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