Once it opens next week, Hopmonk Tavern Novato not only plans to serve a stellar selection of craft beer and hearty food — just like its locations in Sonoma and Sebastopol — but also a first-class lineup of musical talent, mostly from the North Bay.
That's what Hopmonk founder Dean Biersch expressed Wednesday as he watched construction workers scurry around the restaurant at the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center and listened to supervisors conduct training for about 65 new employees. What makes him smile the most is showing off the stage, lighting and sound system in the music venue, called the Session Room, adjacent to the main restaurant.
"We're really excited about taking local people and putting them on a professional stage," he said. "We want to let them step into something fresh and new. But we know how to reach out to the bigger touring groups, and we'll bring in some of those, too."
Hopmonk's soft opening is Nov. 21 at the spot previously occupied by the short-lived Southern Pacific Smokehouse. The event will feature a band that played at Biersch's wedding, the Marin-based Americana duo called the Courtney Janes, comprised of Novato's Dennis Haneda and Terra Linda's Ben Hulan. The pair also was the first music booking for Hopmonk Sonoma when it opened a few years ago.
For the Nov. 21 show, Haneda said they'll play as a duo to start the gig and then morph into a full band newly dubbed Americana Graffiti for the rest of the show and play songs from a Courtney Janes CD that was released this summer titled "Long Season." (Ask for it at Watt's Music in Novato).
Haneda also has been plucked to host Hopmonk's open-mike nights, which debut on Nov. 28.
"This is going to be awesome to have this venue here," Haneda said. "I know a lot of people who are excited about this. ... The difference between a real music venue and a bar is in the details like a nice stage that's a comfortable size, a state-of-the-art sound system, good lighting and small details like the natural flow of the place and the promotion of who's playing that night. Hopmonk has a model behind what they're doing musically, and the quality of that is reflected in everything Dean does. You can tell there is an element of quality and care behind it."
Biersch said Hopmonk eventually will have five to seven shows per week between open-air performances in the biergarten and the indoor stage. The biergarten shows will start in May, he said.
"I think the open mikes are important because it connects us locally," Biersch said. "We know that people enjoy that, but it's also a great way for us to get to know the artists and what's in the local market. And they appreciate the chance to reach an audience."
Haneda, who also hosts an open mike Thursday at Max's in Corte Madera for the past two years, said he has played hundreds of gigs with bandmates over the past few years and that many of those friends could end up on the Hopmonk bill in one way or another. The open-mike gigs will be Wednesdays, he said. All ages are welcome and signups will be at 7:30 p.m. prior to 8 p.m. shows.
"I'm honored that they asked me to host it and that they think I'll be a good fit — I think I'll be a good fit, too," Haneda said. "I've lived in Marin my whole life and connected with a lot of musicians here. We're going to put on some great shows."
If you want to follow what's going on with Hopmonk, look it up on Facebook as well as the separate page for Haneda's open mikes. Biersch said Hopmonk's website will soon debut a separate page for the Novato location.
HOPMONK TAVERN NOVATO MUSIC SCHEDULE
(Subject to change)
- Nov. 21 — The Courtney Janes
- Nov. 23 — Frobeck
- Nov. 24 — Poor Man's Whiskey
- Nov. 28 — Open Mike with Dennis Haneda
- Nov. 30 — The Incubators
- Dec. 1 — Pete String Fellows
- Dec. 5 — Open Mike with Dennis Haneda
- Dec. 7 — Dirty Diamonds and Dirt Floor
- Dec. 12 — Open Mike with Dennis Haneda
- Dec. 14 — Ghosts of Electrocity
- Dec. 26 — Open Mike with Dennis Haneda
- Dec. 28 — Partical
For a Marin Independent Journal story about Hopmonk's opening, click here.