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R.I.P. Cat Club: Sunset Stripped

Nightranger at Cat Club last year.

Lina LecaroNightranger at Cat Club last year.

Looks like nine lives are not in the cards for the Cat Club. The venerable Sunset Strip rock pit, owned by Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats and known for its raucous and often stellar jam sessions, has been sold and word is the new hang, an Irish pub to be called Rock & Reilly's, will not be showcasing live music.

The abrupt closure was revealed a couple days ago via Happening Harry, the long-time LA jam wrangler whose weekly cover bands called the Cat home for over a decade.

On the night his band was supposed to play he posted this on Facebook: "For the first time in ten years we will not be having a Happenin' Harry & The Haptones show this evening. Sad but true. The World Famous Cat Club on The Sunset Strip has been sold."

Phantom has been unreachable to comment (he's currently traveling in Europe). We do know he definitely stuck with the place even through hard times, making changes as recently as last year, with a new sign, decor and expanding the area out back into a patio (with help from promoter Dayle Gloria, now doing her "Club With No Name" nights at Viper Room).

When asked,The Roxy's Nic Adler took a pragmatic view of the milestone closure. "I'm excited for new business on The Strip, and that people want to come in and do something new and are excited to be here," he says of the new bar. "One thing The Strip always needs is great bars."

As for losing the live element, some might -incorrectly- assume Adler happy to have less competition on the Strip, but he's has been a big proponent of all Sunset Strip venues banding together to better the business community (via Social networking alliances with live spots such as The Viper Room and via involvement in the Sunset Strip Music Festival). Also, Cat Club was like extended family; Phantom is his step-dad.

Slim Jim Phantom and The Cult's Billy Duffy at Cat Club last December.

Lina LecaroSlim Jim Phantom and The Cult's Billy Duffy at Cat Club last December.

Phantom's connections made the place an authentic hotspot for hopefuls and bonafide rockstars alike, especially when it first opened. His jam band The Starfuckers, which also featured Guns n' Roses' Gilby Clarke among others, saw some biggie guests pop in and take the stage over the years too, including a much buzzed about Axl Rose set post-GnR break-up/pre-Chinese Democracy release. Happenin' Harry's nights saw session and backup musicians from nearly every big band in town, from Nine Inch Nails to Poison.

Thankfully, new owner Craig Ley (a partner at The Cutting Room at the Grafton Hotel) tells us the rock n' roll feel of the place will remain. "The atmosphere will be one that celebrates the rock and roll heritage of the Sunset Strip in a cool, comfortable, casual environment with great food and drinks," he told us exclusively.

Farewell fishnetted felines serving refreshments at Cat Club.

Lina LecaroFarewell fishnetted felines serving refreshments at Cat Club.

Sounds a lot like Cutting Room, the sleek lounge nearby, known for its carefully curated display of album cover art. It's a great spot, but definitely lacking the gritty diviness of Cat Club, a change some will welcome and many will miss.

Ley --along with Matt Greene (manager at Beecher's Madhouse in the Roosevelt Hotel) and Adam Frank-- is sure to bring a more upscale crowd to the venue, and hopefully it will be ready by the time the SSMF 2011 comes to the boulevard.

Ironically, we cited Cat Club as the venue best capturing the heavy rawkin,' hedonistic spirit of the famed street's heyday during last year's Fest. The new bar will surely be a hot destination, but we'll miss the "nouveau hesher haven" (as we called Cat Club in our book, "Los Angeles' Best Dive Bars- Drinking and Diving in the City of Angels") too. Another live dive bites the dust. As we say at the end of the book, listing the best dead dives: RIP (Rest In Puke)!