Update: Cafe International's Open Mic Night Will Go On

Update: Cafe International's Open Mic Night Will Go OnMike Gaworecki / Hoodline
Mike Gaworecki
Published on March 18, 2015

Yesterday we reported that Cafe International (508 Haight St.) was planning to shut down its open mic night due to pressure from music rights organizations BMI and SESAC. But today, cafe owner Zahra Saleh tells Hoodline that she has decided to continue the open mic events, despite pressures over music rights that she called "a nightmare."

"They want us to shut it down, but I'm not going to shut it down," Saleh says. "We will keep it as long as people follow the rule."

The rule, of course, is that covers are not allowed, and that all music must be original. BMI and SESAC first came after Saleh and Cafe International over the music being played over the sound system, so now, Saleh told us, she pays a monthly fee for a satellite radio station.

The music rights organizations then shifted their attention to the open mic nights. Representatives from the organizations have sometimes stayed at the cafe all night to make sure no one performs any copyrighted material, and on at least one occasion secretly recorded the performers to use as evidence against Cafe International.

But Saleh says she will not be bullied into pulling the plug, and after an outpouring of support in the comment section of yesterday's article, the news should come as a relief to fans of the cafe. "Open mic is still well and alive," she says.

Now Saleh just has to figure out what to do with the thousands of CDs she collected over the years. "I used to go to Amoeba almost every week," Saleh says. Now that she can't play them in the cafe, they're gathering dust in Cafe International's basement.

BMI and SESAC have not responded to requests for comment on this story.