Oakland’s The Alley piano bar reopens after a year-long pandemic

After a year-long closure, the historic Oakland Piano Bar The Alley will reopen to guests on Thursday April 29th. Photo credit: Sarah Han

The Alley Piano Bar & Restaurant
3325 Grand Ave. (between Elwood and Santa Clara), Oakland

Late 2020 saw it for The Alley, the Oakland piano bar that has been located at 3325 Grand Ave. since 1933. At the beginning of the pandemic, the bar was about to close. After a fundraiser generated over $ 94,000, The Alley was saved – and owner Jacqualine Simpkins says the bar will “finally” reopen tonight after months of preparing to reopen in the COVID-19 era.

When Simpkins spoke to Nosh in 2019, he said The Alley was Oakland’s third oldest bar … but it’s actually not a bar at all. It’s actually classified as a restaurant (there’s a full kitchen in the background) with a cabaret license and a full bar It is this designation that allows it to reopen now while Alameda County remains in the orange reopening tier, as bars that do not serve full meals are limited to outdoor service only, according to California health orders, but restaurants are in Interiors with a capacity of 50% can be reopened. allowed with a maximum of 200 people. According to The Alley, seating in the bar is limited to 45 people.

It was a long way back for The Alley, which opened right after Prohibition ended (according to a 1954 play in The Oakland Tribune) and then became known for its “dollar steak.” A look at the application of cultural heritage from 2016 tells a lot of its story: the performances at the piano were broadcast live in the 1940s, and in the mid-1950s the (then new) Baby Grand hosted performances by professional and amateur Entertainers. It has been the subject of at least one documentary and appeared in Blindspotting, an award-winning comedy starring Daveed Diggs.

A community grew around this piano, the youngest generation of which ran a fundraiser in late 2020 to help Simpkins, who owned the bar since 2009, cover The Alley’s utilities, taxes and mortgages. The goal was $ 75,000. This amount was exceeded within a few days, and a subsequent online auction raised additional funds.

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At the same time, The Alley’s regulars have kept a connection through regular online meetups. Alley patron Rachel Howard told the SF Chronicle that we have come naturally absolutely closer to each other recently as the past year has been a difficult year.

The piano bar is open tonight with the pianist Bryan Seet, but with some security changes – no seating at the piano, a time limit of 75 minutes per visit and only 1-2 singers are allowed to sing at the same time.

The alley will reopen on Thursday April 29th. The opening times are from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (the catering service starts at 5:30 p.m.; the piano bar opens at 7 p.m.). Reservations can be made by calling 510-444-8505.

This story was updated with hours and new security precautions as it was posted.

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