Octopus Literary Salon, beloved hub for Oakland artists, is closing

Published 1:33 pm PDT, Thursday, August 29, 2019

Octopus Literary Salon in Uptown Oakland was everything a local creative could ask for: a bookstore, a cafe, a bar, and an all-ages live performance venue all in one. But if it’s true that all good things must come to an end, Octopus is the latest to prove that maxim — on Saturday, August 31, the space is closing its doors for good.

“We ran out of money,” said owner Rebecca Grove, who opened Octopus with her friends Ian Patton and Mike Linn in April 2015. “We tried different strategies throughout the four and a half years, but it’s really tough to run a cafe.”

Grove was initially inspired to open Octopus by the small literary salons she would host at her home in Oakland — the historic Brixton Smith Red House — where friends would gather to play music and read plays out loud. She decided that Uptown Oakland needed a brick-and-mortar version of these salons.

“Many people share that dream of having a cafe space where your friends and family can come,” said Grove. “It’s a third space — one that’s not home and not work, and you can go there and connect with people.”

The model Grove, Patton, and Linn had in mind was to sell enough sandwiches and coffee to subsidize the small performances that Octopus hosted regularly, which were always free or cheap (and no one was ever turned away for not being able to pay, emphasized Grove).

But keeping up financially was always a struggle. Earlier this year, Octopus launched a GoFundMe to raise $185,000 to pay off the remainder of a construction loan from when they first opened. They didn’t reach their goal, but Grove told Berkeleyside in April that she was impressed by the total number of donors more so than the dollar amount.

“It was an experiment all the way through created by three friends,” said Grove. “I’m so thrilled it lasted as long as it did. We all knew it would be a struggle.”

From open mic Mondays to book clubs and intimate shows from up-and-coming artists, there was nothing quite like the creative community that Octopus fostered in Oakland.

“People felt so comfortable here. No one was judged — we were never too cool for anyone,” said Grove.

Now, community members will have to get their cafe, bar, bookstore, and music fixes separately.

Octopus will close day-to-day operations on Saturday after a final few days brimming with sing-alongs, poetry, and an invitation to the public to come have a last drink with them. However, the official last going-out celebration will be Sept. 6 at 5 p.m., in which they plan to march to Lake Merritt with the Extra Action Marching Band for a Viking jazz funeral followed by a karaoke wake.

On their website, a message announcing the salon’s closure ends with these words: “This has been a rich and rewarding experience, and we have no regrets. We have lived our dreams, and the Octopus is a testament to the power of creative spirit and community. Thank you again.”

Madeline Wells is an SFGate editorial assistant. Email: madeline.wells@sfgate.com | Twitter: @madwells22

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-Octopus-Literary-Salon-closing-cafe-14400118.php.

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