Burbank Dimples karaoke bar closing marks the end of an era – Daily News


BURBANK >> After Sal Ferraro opened the Dimples restaurant and bar opposite the Warner Bros. building. in 1982 he was looking for a way to distinguish the place from the sports disco bar he owned down the street.

Then, shortly after opening the bar on West Olive Avenue, he discovered the home karaoke machine at a celebrity party.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

“Back then you had to read (the lyrics to the song) in a book,” said Ferraro, 84. “At first it was a bit slow. After the CD came out with the bouncing ball and the words, it all blew up… and everyone had it.

Now the iconic Dimples, billed as “America’s first karaoke bar” and known for its clutter of Hollywood memorabilia, is preparing to close its doors to make way for the Talaria Project in Burbank. The $ 165 million mixed-use project, which was approved by city council in October, will feature four levels of luxury apartments atop a 43,000-square-foot Whole Foods market.

• VIDEO: The karaoke scene at Burbank’s Dimples

• PICTURES: A karaoke night at Dimples in Burbank

“It’s devastating,” said Dimples manager Kim Snow, a 12-year-old employee, as he took a break from his bartending job. “We’re all really overwhelmed that it’s happening so soon. We knew this project was underway. It was just a matter of time. “

Last weekend, Dimples was filled with old friends as well as new ones who were eager to experience the place made famous across the country by a popular reality TV episode “Bar Rescue” which aired in 2013. Since the As news of its impending closure spread, the venue was crowded most weekend nights, with patrons occasionally having to wait outside so as not to exceed the venue’s 150-person capacity, Snow said.

“We are doubling our normal Holy Fridays and Holy Saturdays,” she said. “We have opened on Sundays for the past two weeks because we have been so busy.”

The kitsch bar, which has a wall of stained glass windows stained with the emblems of nearby movie studios, was due to have its last hurray this Saturday night, but Ferraro has worked with the owner and is hoping to secure a one-month extension, Snow said , adding that the actual closing date will be posted on the bar soon Facebook page.

Friday’s stage lineup included a few professional singers, two young girls and tipsy adults humming into the microphone in front of a life-size cutout of Vanna White. Accessories including bunny ears, wigs and glittering top hats were available to some of the most daring artists. In popular Dimples tradition, singers are given a photo and DVD of their first performance.

The dimples should be declared a “historic monument,” argued Dennis G. Miller, 66, of Van Nuys, who sang “Splish Splash” with a friend. Miller even took a request to designate it as a historic city resource and said he hoped the developer would consider changing the plans. Ferraro has long claimed that Dimples was the country’s premier karaoke bar – although its veracity could not be independently verified – and many customers have clung to that claim.

“It has to be preserved,” said Miller, a handyman with long gray hair. “It’s like finding dinosaur bones. … Any other karaoke venue can be shaved, but not the first one.

Julie Griffin, a professional singer from Valley Village, said she comes to Dimples for camaraderie and to let off steam.

“We’re all equal here,” Griffin said, sipping vodka tonic and talking to a young man. “We all look pretty bad. It is a special place and I am really sad to see it disappear.

Sitting on a bar stool by the kitchen, Ferraro proudly showed off billboards covered in photos of celebrities who have performed over the years, including Britney Spears, Jay Leno and Katy Perry. Actor Dennis Haskins, who starred as Belding in “Saved By the Bell,” is still a regular.

Back in the days when Dimples was the only karaoke bar, business was at its peak, Ferraro said. But things have calmed down except on Fridays and Saturdays, as karaoke bar after karaoke bar have sprung up around her. The bar’s appearance on “Bar Rescue,” which gave it a new look and significant publicity, resulted in a much-needed increase in sales, but they also made a few changes that put Ferraro in the wrong direction.

“They did me 50% good, 50% bad,” he said. “They took out my dance floor, removed my sign, rearranged a few booths. I did not like. They (also) bought new rugs, new bar stools, a sound system and a cash register. They spent a lot of money.

They also emptied his memories, including cameras and old photos, which he quickly returned to the bar. When they filmed the show two years ago, he was in debt of around $ 250,000. He has since sold some properties, including a house in Lake Tahoe, and is now out of debt, he said.

Ferraro is confident he will find another location and is currently working on runways to vacant restaurants and bars in Hollywood, North Hollywood and Burbank. Besides Dimples, there are around 40 households, several other commercial tenants and a church on the site that will also be moved by the Talaria project, which is the first large mixed commercial / residential project in Burbank, according to real estate group Cusumano, the developer. of the project.

“The dimples will live. It’s an institution, ”Ferraro said. “Where are you going to go in a bar and buy a DVD, a picture of yourself… and be on the Internet all over the world? There is no place, no place like that.

In his early days, Albert Zuniga remembers going to Dimples to have the girls dance to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and big bands to impress the ladies with his moves during their weekly swing dance lessons. Now the retired TV producer and film editor goes to the kibitz with clients and has a martini every now and then.

“This is my living room,” said Zuniga, who is one of the many clients valuable enough to have a little nameplate nailed to the bar. “I don’t miss karaoke as much as all of my friends, the girls (who work there) that I have seen come and go, the bartenders, Sal, and a lot of people he knows who were regulars who have all left. now.”

Burbank City Councilor Emily Gabel-Luddy said she was sad to see this “regional icon” shut down and is hoping Ferraro can find a location nearby.

But the Talaria project, which will provide around 240 luxury apartments ranging from 821 square feet to almost 3,000 square feet, will offer many who work in the city’s bustling media district a chance to live there, a- she declared.

“Nickelodeon brought 600 jobs across the hill to Burbank,” said Gabel-Luddy, one of four in five board members who voted in favor of the project. “The Cartoon Network has grown. More and more people are working on Cartoon Network and the average age is 27. I think this is all very positive.

But that’s no solace for John Oliver, a 68-year-old music royalty accountant who works across the street and comes to the bar every night after work for drinks, chatting with friends. and have the chance to sing Sinatra or BB King. . Oliver was “adopted” 11 years ago by the ladies who work at the bar, he said, and they take care of him like no one else does.

“It’s very sad,” said Oliver, who is not married and also has a nameplate on the bar. “It seems a family is breaking up. That is exactly what I feel.

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