For over 100 years, Oakland’s Stork Club served up cheap drinks and live local music. In 2020, the pandemic ended that era, with the venue sharing a post on Facebook that May explaining that it was “wiped from the RONA with no support.”
Since then, the space on Telegraph Avenue between 23rd and 24th Avenues has sat empty and the community left longing. That’s all coming to an end July 1st, with a new bar called Thee Stork Club opening its doors.
Despite the nod to the original in the new bar’s name, Thee Stork Club promises a unique take on the operation under new ownership.
The team putting it together includes an all-star cast of East Bay nightclub veterans. Motion picture and music festival production coordinator Mark Ribak, one of the founders of Mosswood Meltdown (formerly known as Burger Boogaloo) makes up part of the team. The other portion of that squad includes Billy Joe Agan and Matt Patane, owners of Eli’s Mile High Club who describe the institution as “a garbage bar and delivery service for losers.” And they explain to Berkeleyside that while Ribak's friend, mentor, and Mosswood Meltdown emcee John Waters isn't directly involved in the venture, his aesthetic will be all over the new bar — an aesthetic which Agan calls "grandma's whorehouse."
Records show Agan filed for the domestic limited-liability company license in November of 2021.
Berkeleyside reports Ribak and Agan have known each other for years, having grown up “in the same music scene” in SoCal. They say they had to compete ferociously with other investment groups and big-name nightlife operators who also wanted the Stork Club space, and negotiations for the lease took nearly a year.
The old Stork Club had a very distinct feel.
"It features a full bar separate from the dance floor /stage area, a gaming room & outdoor smoking area. it has it's own custom designed sound system & mic collection adequate enough to cover most performer requirements. it's very much a blue-collar, family run operation that takes pride in serving the local community as many years as it has & is often compared to NYC's CBGB," the business described of itself on Facebook.
Now, Patane, Agan, and Ribak are working on renovations and design. It'll keep some of the old vibe, but the new version will be a space meant to attract young people while still feeling like a place John Waters himself, a man closing in on his 80s, would want to hang out.
“We’re cleaning the place, and then adding some design elements that are part ‘proto fern bar,’ part ‘1970s dive bar,’ and part ‘the trashiness of Madonna Inn,’” Again explained to Berkeleyside. “It’s funny because it lent itself to a very cheap build… It’s a lot of woodgrain formica, cheap paneling and plywood.”
The drinks will also remain reminiscent of the original Stork Club. Agan says he aims to bring back intense sugar-hangovers and trashy cocktails like kamikazes and Harvey Wallbangers. Those will be served up along with “wild, really gaudy garnish.”
For now, although the space includes a kitchen, it’ll stay closed. The owners wanted to focus on getting the bar up and running and booking performers for the live music venue. Once that’s rolling, they can focus on the kitchen.