"I get, like, five or six new band-promo packs every week," says Mario Metranga, who with his father runs Patrick's II in the Gaslamp Quarter. "And since Hurricane Katrina, a lot of the New Orleans bands who hit the road want to play here.... We've had blues for 25 years."
The F Street club's success as a blues venue has made some players cry foul. One complaint is the pay: $350 per band on weekday nights and $450 on weekends is not enough, says one blues musician.
"The casinos pay, like, $1000 or $2000 a night. I'm just looking to get $100 a man. Their beer prices keep going up, but we still get paid what we got in the '70s...."
Patrick's II does not usually charge admission on weekdays, but on week-
ends -- when there is always a wait to get in -- there is a $5 cover.
"It's getting harder and harder to stay here [in the Gaslamp Quarter] and have live music every day," says Metranga. "Our [income] has gone down every year for the past five years. Our expenses have gone through the roof. The city has tripled its fees. Rent has gone up tremendously."
Besides the pay issue, the blues musician complains that the bar won't hire bands that have been playing anywhere else in the Gaslamp Quarter. Other downtown venues known for their blues include Henry's, Dick's Last Resort, and Croce's. Metranga says the exclusivity policy was started by his father when Croce's Top Hat, next door, began hosting blues bands in the '80s. Croce's remains, but the Top Hat venue is gone.
"We wanted our own bands," says Metranga. "I don't want to be trading bands down the street."
Though the bluesman says "...if it wasn't for the bands, Patrick's would just be an Irish bar with a jukebox," but he admits that "they are the only place I know that passes a tip jar around. The band makes an extra $40 to $100 a night."