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Hanging at the Shakedown in San Diego

Crowd at The Shakedown
Crowd at The Shakedown
Photo by Dave Good

The Shakedown: that friendly neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name. Everybody, that is, if you happen to be into choppers, street rods, beer, and punk bands sometimes stacked three deep per night. The Shakedown is where you come to hear meat-and-potatoes punks like 45 Grave, the Yeastie Boys, the Meatmen, Los Creepers, TSOL, the Altar Relics, Barbwire Dolls, Civet, Jason and the Punknecks, and more. It is as if the clock had been turned back and punk was new again.

“We’re primarily a punk rock, rockabilly, and psychobilly venue,” says Roscoe Nichols, Shakedown’s booking manager. He built his band rolodex the hard way, by working as a roadie for such bands as the Beat Farmers and the Blasters. The Shakedown is all about the music, he says, loud and hard music, really, and it’s about having a good time. But attitude, he says, is unwelcome and neck tats are optional.

“Even normal people come in and hear the bands,” says Shakedown owner Ted Thompson, who likes to be called Dead Ted, “and they have a good time. When I was a kid,” he says, “that didn’t happen at punk shows. There were fights. That doesn’t happen any more.”

Owning a nightclub had been a dream of Dead Ted’s for years. A custom bike builder, Thompson gained club chops working part-time in L.A.-area venues like the Galaxy and the Brixton. In October, with loans from family and friends he bought an aging dive bar near the Sports Arena.

“These walls,” Dead Ted says from behind the bar, “have seen a lot of shit.” He laughs. Originally called the Doll House, he thinks the bar dates back to the 1950s or later. Next, it was Tavern Chic (“they ran hookers out of here,” he says) and finally, the Rhythm Lounge. Thompson and friends took over and buffed out the cheese-bar stains, installed a better sound system and a DJ booth, and rolled a coat of black paint over everything. The walls are decorated with posters, skate decks, motorcycle parts, bumpers, and the hood from a wrecked AC Cobra. An old-time barber chair overlooks the pool tables. Most days, Dead Ted parks his vintage ’51 Panhead in front of the stage. It adds to the ambience.

“We’re a big family over here, having fun, and doing what we like,” he says.

The inner circle includes Cody Coons, who runs the barbecue grill and assists with bookings, and Josh Barnes, who worked at various record labels before taking a job as doorman-bartender-assistant promoter. “Everybody has multiple jobs here,” says Dead Ted. “Security, the door, bartending, and booking shows.”

In a nod to a gleefully misspent youth, Shakedown offers all manner of malt liquor served in tall cans. Dead Ted says he no longer drinks alcohol but that “it’s what we were into when we were kids.”

Future plans? Roscoe Nichols talks about Sunday matinee shows.

“It’s fun for us old men. We can come out, have a good time, go home early, and get to work Monday morning.”




3048 Midway Drive

2 p.m.-2 a.m. daily

10 a.m. – 2 a.m. Sundays

$3.50 cocktails and tall cans, $3 dollar drafts, $2 dollar happy hour

Average band cover charge: $10

Had too much fun? The Shakedown offers a donation-based door-to-door pick up and drop off service.


Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Address: 3048 Midway Drive