When local activist and business owner Jewel Thais-Williams first considered selling her historic Pico Boulevard club Catch One, her foremost priority was to meet a buyer who’d honor the history of the nearly 100-year-old venue. In the fall of 2015, Thais-Williams found just the person: L.A. nightclub impresario Steve Edelson, who currently owns and operates Los Globos in Silver Lake but has also brought storied venues like El Cid, the Joint and the Dragonfly into popularity.
Though Steve Edelson bought the Pico building, the club inside — now known as Union — is owned and managed by his 23-year-old son, Mitch Edelson. Despite his youth, Mitch has formidable experience, having worked in his father’s L.A. clubs even before he finished high school. Given this, it’s perhaps little wonder that his first year at the Pico site has been a good one. TNN talked with Mitch about his takeover of the Mid-City gem.
TNN: You’ve been running Union for a little about a year now. How has the community responded?
Mitch: Everyone has been so nice, from the neighborhood council to the homeowners association behind me. I think a lot of people were worried this place would get torn down and turned into a mixed-use building, so people are happy to hear we’re keeping Jewel’s legacy going. We are all respectful of the history here. The building was built in the 1920s, so it’s been around longer than some of the nearby homes. We’re respectful toward the neighbors, we have good security, we stay involved in the community and we try to alleviate their concerns.
TNN: You’re even a member of the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council.
Mitch: That’s right. When I got the club, I wanted to be a good neighbor. I’m really inspired by what Jewel did, so I’m trying to follow in her footsteps as much as I can by being an active member of the community and giving back. I’ve got this space that can hold all these people but I only use it at night. Finding things to do with it during the day is good. The neighborhood council and I even hosted Thanksgiving dinner here for community members.
TNN: Tell us about your interest in the music world, and in this particular venue.
Mitch: I love all kinds of music, though jazz is my favorite, and I love listening to live music. I also knew about Das Bunker, the Friday-night club Jewel had here. It’s the longest-running industrial goth club in the country. Her team brought in tons of originators. That’s just one reason this is a historic space. Jewel owned it from 1972 to 2015. Before that, it was a dime-a-dance spot for GIs. Billie Holiday and Sammie Davis, Jr., played here. But what I like most about the club is that it’s really three different clubs in one most nights. We can run a house DJ in one room, a band in another, and a comedy show in another. Bringing all these subcultures together — that’s what we want to do.
TNN: What kinds of shows are you booking?
Mitch: We do everything, from punk and metal and techno to international house DJs, world music, reggae, hard core and ska. Plus we host comedy shows, private parties, movie shoots and more. We don’t say ‘no’ to anyone — we have three rooms to book seven nights a week.
TNN: That’s a lot of calendar space. How do you fill all those slots?
Mitch: I have a great team of people making bookings, and I answer every phone call and email I get. We reach out to people who Jewel worked with, and they reach out to us. Also, there are venues downtown, in Silverlake, and all over L.A. that are prohibitively expensive to rent. Our model has been to be an easy team to work with, to offer a wide variety of events, and to be inclusive.
TNN: Jewel made it her mission for Catch One to be inclusive of everyone, especially the LGBT community. Are you doing the same?
Mitch: Yes. I meet people every day who tell me how much the Catch meant to them, and that shows me that we’ve got to keep that legacy alive. We try to do several black LGBT events that Jewel was doing. We have inclusive restrooms. We have people from all creeds and sexual orientations working here. We are about unity — hence the name Union.
TNN: Has the space changed much physically?
Mitch: We have respected the architecture and the vibe of the place as much as possible. We kept a lot of the neon signs from Jewel’s time and made others. We restored the bars. We painted the walls black. We tried to highlight the interesting stuff — the keep it simple and to not overcomplicate it. My family’s philosophy in this business is that if you make a club super fancy or glitzy, you might do well, but it will only last a year or two. Then some other A-list club will come along and top you. So we’re more about being inclusive and making this place where everyone feels welcome. That's a more sustainable business model.
Established in August of 2008 by writer, artist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.