.Moonlight, Top o’ the Hill

Two Sonoma County venues go out with the old year

Sun Sets on Moonlight

After three years of live local music, the Moonlight has lost its lease and will be leaving the music biz. According to owner Steve Negoesco, the Santa Rosa club will hold its last show on New Year’s Eve.

Negoesco blames the landlord’s decision not to renew his lease on pressure from city government. The Moonlight has regularly played host to a wide variety of bands, from ska and hardcore to jazz and blues–and that diverse music has drawn a young crowd that Negoesco believes makes city fathers nervous.

“If we were just a blues club or a jazz club and only that, I think that we would not have been perceived as threatening to the people who have decision-making power,” he explains.

To appease critics, the Moonlight has done everything from hiring a security team to dropping hardcore shows.

“We’ve tried everything to placate the people who feel uncomfortable with what we do, but somehow it hasn’t been enough,” Negoesco says. “I don’t harbor any ill will. I just think it’s unfortunate that Santa Rosa isn’t ready to hear its own original music.”

Top o’ the Hill Bottoms Out

The end came suddenly for Sonoma County’s most unusual alternative music venue. After 27 years in business, Marty’s Top o’ The Hill has been sold and will shut its doors for good on the first weekend of January, according to owner Martin Lorenzo.

The Sebastopol club, which opened in 1973, operated as a country and western honky-tonk for decades. But last year, declining attendance compelled Lorenzo to change musical formats. He asked local sound engineer Patrick Warner to begin booking such alternative bands as Third Degree and the Lincolns.

But according to Warner, Top of the Hill’s remote location and reputation as a country bar kept many fans away. “[Attendance] has been a little on the light side,” Warner says. “I couldn’t get the locals to come in.”

Warner hopes to open his own all-ages club in Santa Rosa sometime next year. The 71-year-old Lorenzo, on the other hand, is looking forward to his time off.

“I’m going to enjoy not having to get up every morning,” he says.

From the December 30, 1999-January 5, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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