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Inside Sonoma’s El Verano Inn

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Anniversary Shows

FRIDAY, SEPT. 14

Wildflower Weed, Driven

SATURDAY, SEPT. 15

Scarlett Letters, Tilted Halos

Way back in the olden days, around about 1880, small residential lots in the El Verano area were being sold for $85. There are no missing zeros in that sentence.

Men with names like Crocker, Maxwell, Huntington and Carriger were in financial cahoots in the Valley. Their vision of developing El Verano lasted about 10 years or so, then it was abandoned. But the now-quirky residential area came into its own without them. It was populated with folks coming up from the San Francisco area, who had the $8.50 needed for a down payment on the mortgage.(Yep, a turkey with avocado sandwich costs now about the same as a down payment on a lot in El Verano in 1880.)

Southern Pacific Railroad had tracks passing by what is now the Valley of the Moon Water District’s office, the El Verano Post Office, the El Verano Market and the El Verano Inn. The building that houses the El Verano Inn (EVI) stands at the corner of Bay Street and Laurel Avenue. It is hard against the pavement of the two streets, but inside one can study photos taken when the building appeared to be squarely in the Wild West.

The false-fronted, two-story wooden structure once housed a U.S. Post Office and Mullen’s General Store. It has been several taverns, a bus depot, and there were apartments upstairs at one time. It was also the scene of a murder, when the store clerk was shot dead over a beef about money.

Richard and Leslie Danon bought the building in 1998 and christened it the El Verano Inn. Leslie says she was intrigued by the place and “the souls of the thousands of people who have passed through.” The Danons acquired the property and business as a sort of retirement project for Richard. And, boy, what a project it turned out to be: The county shut them down in 2009, saying that the building was not safe and in need of repair.

Six months later, after a new foundation, new plumbing and new electrical systems were added, they reopened. “We are open every day but Christmas,” Leslie Danon said. “We now have the best staff we have ever had.”

Added Leslie: “I have never seen a place (bar) where kids and parents hang out together.”

After all those years and all those thousands spent on improvements, the Danons and EVI are celebrating their 20th anniversary this month, with two big weekends of music.

Danon described the EVI as largely a “bourbon and beer place” by day, but at night it sometimes goes over to the live music world, and this is how the Danons choose to celebrate the platinum anniversary.

Two weekends of live music begin this Friday, Sept. 14. Wildflower Weed and Driven play on Friday; while Scarlett Letters and Tilted Halos play on Saturday. Next weekend’s lineup was not cemented by press time, but will be of a slightly different musical style.

Dave Willis, ex-El Verano resident and current band leader of the Quitters says the Danons are like family. “I’ve known them since the day they took over the Innskeeps. Twenty years ago, it was just a bar on the west side of town, now it’s a place known for all genres of music.”

Anniversary Shows

FRIDAY, SEPT. 14

Wildflower Weed, Driven

SATURDAY, SEPT. 15

Scarlett Letters, Tilted Halos

It is that willingness to offer a variety of music that has made EVI a landmark for the last four years: a punk landmark.

Four years ago, Willis, using the name “Bobby Hollywood,” convinced the Danons to let him produce a show. A punk show. EVI is now known as “punk central. El Mabuhay Sonoma,” according to Leslie Danon.

She says, “Kids come from all over to hear the music. Up from San Francisco, over from Sacramento. They are so respectful and polite.” She adds that news of upcoming punk shows gets out through social media and word of mouth.

The weekend of Sept. 21 and 22 will probably have a certain punkiness to it. This weekend, however, the small and poster lined stage at EVI will feature local, more traditional rock-flavored bands. Tilted Halos frontman Manny Inocencio said, “The El Verano inn offers true expression through music. The powers that be have sent us a music angel through Rich and Leslie who we welcomed with open arms.”

Jon Williams, frontman for Driven, said of the Danons, “They are truly saints of the Sonoma music scene, whether it be punk rock, new bands, old bands – everybody leaves feeling that Richard and Leslie are family.”

The family reunion starts on Friday night at 9 p.m. and is free. Saturday’s starts at 8:30 p.m. and is also free. But bring that $8.50. You might need it for a cold one.