Arcata deli invites all ages to listen

It's not easy to see a live band in Arcata without being carded, but the East Side Deli is looking to change that. Over the past month or so, owners Michael and Nancy Tout have begun the process of transforming an otherwise run of the mill corner store into an evening hotspot for all-ages entertainment.

"We started a regular Saturday night barbecue with live music, and it's been very popular," said Michael Tout.

Local bluegrass band No Road has been the regular act for these events, but Tout said the actual line-up of musicians is always a surprise.

"Some nights it'll be the regular band and other nights they'll invite some of the guys from (local bands) Bucky Walters or Absynth Quintet. There might be three guys playing one night and there might be eight playing on another."

The East Side Deli also hosts an open-mic night every Thursday, and Tout said he is in the process of organizing a regular lady's night every Friday which will feature female singer-songwriters from around the area.

And while the majority of the acts at the East Side Deli will be local, Tout said that he does get offers from out-of-town acts.

"I've been getting calls from small acts traveling between San Francisco and Portland who want to play a show on the way." Tout said that he has a couple of non-local acts booked for the near future including an indie-folk band from Los Angeles as well as a Seattle based band by the name of Pirates 'R' Us.

It isn't a rare thing for out-of-town bands to play Arcata, but it is rare that folks under the age of 21 can see those bands. Until Tout started hosting shows, The Placebo, a local music and art collective, was the only group striving to provide entertainment for folks with the big red stripe on their driver's license. Abe Ray, a founding member of The Placebo, had nothing but good things to say about the East Side Deli.

"I think it's great," Ray said. "(The Placebo) always supports anyone trying to start a venue like this. They're just getting set up over there, but I think they're doing well."

Oh, and it should also be noted that the East Side Laundry is right next-door. So you can get some housework done while you socialize.

Sara Vargas, a 20-year-old HSU student said she recently relocated to the vicinity and is excited about the deli.

"It's cool," she said. "I just moved up the road, so I come down here, do a load of laundry and see what's going on. It's way better than reading a magazine and watching the cloths spin."

The East Side Deli is on it's way to becoming a musical oasis for both young and old, but, as Tout will attest, trying to maintain an all-ages venue can be sticky business -- especially when beer is on the menu.

"We're real strict about carding for alcohol and cigarettes, but what I really have to watch for is people sharing with minors."

With local law enforcement cracking down recently on illegal sales to minors, Tout understands what he's getting into and is optimistic about the endeavor.

"There is a real need around here for an all-ages venue," he said. "We're putting ourselves at risk by doing this, but we'll continue as long as we can."