June 18, 2021
A downtown San Jose staple, the Dive Bar, is the latest victim of the pandemic and shriveled nightlife in the city.
But a man sees an opportunity in the dusty old apartment building near San Jose City Hall. He’s bringing a honky-tonk vibe to the city center with Cash Only, a new nightclub set to open this summer.
This is the idea of Cache Bouren, owner of Mercier, an artisanal cocktail lounge in the city center.
“I can hear the music, the chairs on the floor, the glasses clinking,” Bouren told the San José Spotlight.
The decor at Cash Only will transport patrons back to the ’60s and’ 70s. Bouren said he wanted the bar to feel established and comfortable. The ambiance will be an eclectic mix of “whiskey drinking music” featuring artists from Sublime to Bob Marley and Johnny Cash.
It is the first of its kind in the city.
The name of the bar comes from an old-school 1961 jukebox that Bouren owns. On the front is a weathered sign that says “Cash Only” and it only plays Johnny Cash. Continuing the theme of homecoming, the bar will be cash only with two ATMs on site. Vintage neon and backlit beer signs will complement the feeling of nostalgia.
Cash Only replaces the Dive Bar at 78 East Santa Clara Street. A staple in the city center since 2004, the Dive Bar was known for its karaoke, quiz nights and end-of-year parties. The waterhole, decorated with red leather furniture, gold star light fixtures, and silhouettes of divers, was the first bar in San Jose where Bouren had a drink.
Born and raised in Maui, Bouren met a girl who became his wife at 18 and followed her to Ohio, but she broke his heart and they went their separate ways.
“We were too young,” Bouren said.
But that’s when Bouren first tasted the bartender, making the house $ 700 to $ 900 a night. Eventually, he left college. He found his true calling by working in bars.
Bouren’s mother was also a bartender and his grandmother was a cocktail waitress. His mother has a photo of him in a stroller at the side of the stage while his father played the guitar.
“It would be dad on stage and mum behind the bar or the work tables,” he said. “The place I feel most comfortable is in a bar with a bit of chaos, the noise of glassware and people drinking and laughing.”
Bouren said he learned entrepreneurship from his father. He worked as a bus boy until high school, from the age of 14.
A friend found him a job in 2007 as a bartender at Fahrenheit Lounge in San Jose, next to Roco’s Cigar Lounge. With its 25-foot suede curtains, antique radios, leather sofas and wingback chairs, Bouren said Roco’s has become his favorite spot.
Bouren told owner Joe Gradillas that if he was selling whiskey or Manhattan, the place would be packed. Intrigued, Gradillas agreed to partner with him on a new bar. They opened singlebarrel in 2010, a craft cocktail lounge at 43 West San Salvador Street. Five years later, Bouren changed him to a haberdasher.
“People want cool places to hang out,” Bouren said. “As long as you can make parts like we did with Haberdasher, like our neighbor did with miniBoss… you’ll be fine.”
Now he is ready to create Cash Only.
George Lahlouh, co-owner of miniBoss, said he was excited to open a business like Cash Only next door.
“Cache is an extremely enthusiastic guy and I think his enthusiasm for what he does and for the hospitality is a good thing to have in our neighborhood,” said Lahlouh. “It’s good to have neighbors who also attract the people you want to your home. High tides lift all ships.”
Bouren predicts it will take some time for the city to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic which half of the shops in the window closed in downtown San José. Bars and nightlife particularly suffered. They were among the first to close and about the last to reopen.
It has also been difficult to find workers, Bouren said.
“It’s a tough industry to integrate and last year made it more difficult than anyone could imagine,” he said. “Those who are successful in this industry do it because they are stubborn, stupid, or lucky. I have been a mixture of all three.”
But Bouren said downtown businesses need people to come and patronize them. He’s not worried about the economy rebounding, but that it won’t happen as fast as everyone needs it to.
“I really want to see the downtown area become prosperous and vibrant,” he said, “and the hub that it should be.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
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