It's no coincidence that the description for Evan Phillips' new Santa Rosa club is "Culture House." Like an underground Casa de la Cultura in Mexico City, Society: Culture House—enjoying a successful soft opening since October—lends itself to gatherings of subcultures breeding creativity and social reflection.
With this concept in mind, Phillips, a veteran Bay Area DJ and hip-hop artist known as TRUTHLiVE, is attempting to rebrand one of Santa Rosa's largest and most infamous clubs.
In its incarnation as Seven Ultralounge, the space gained a reputation as downtown's most notorious nightclub. The location was under close scrutiny by police and city officials, and in late 2007 was served papers by the city attorney's office three inches thick. Two new owners have attempted to revive the club since.
Taking on the venue might seem like risky business, but Phillips insists, "I don't believe in curses. I believe in business plans and staffing, marketing and programming and culture."
The philosophy behind Phillips' mindset is confident and unconventional. While most clubs attract patrons with specific lifestyles, Society: Culture House attracts a broad clientele. "The demographic we are targeting is intelligent, conscious people regardless of what it is they are into," explains Phillips. "Genre has become irrelevant. People don't identify so closely with one group as they used to; it's more about identifying a general mentality."
A case in point is Gallery Wednesdays, this past summer's widely popular dance-art party that attracted a wide spectrum. Revived by Society's resident curator Jared Powell, a local artist is showcased monthly on the walls of the club, while fresh talent flows through weekly.
Long-running dance party Rock 'N' Roll Sunday School takes over Sunday nights, and Thursday nights get steamy with reggae party Casa Rasta. Brunch and bottomless mimosas make up Hangover Sundays, starting at 10am, and glossy dance parties like Neon and Kaleidoscope have taken up residency on weekend nights.
Society: Culture House has a number of other changes. The interior is undergoing the beginning stages of an "industrial earthiness," coming together with custom-made chandeliers and pop-culture visuals in technicolor collage. Gourmet street food is offered until 2am nightly, with current menus including grilled lime chicken tacos with tomatillo salsa, fried chicken sliders with harissa aioli and bacon-wrapped hot dogs with grilled jalapeños.
That's a lot of culture under one roof. But if attendance and the vibe from the last two months are any indicators, Phillips is finally breaking the curse.
Society: Culture House, 528 Seventh St., Santa Rosa