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Mar Vista’s Breakaway a Place to Start

Jay Tinski came to California with an agenda.

When he arrived here last year from Tampa, Fla., to take over as manager of Breakaway Restaurant & Bar in Mar Vista, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his new charge: start a club for budding musicians who write and perform original music.

More than that, Tinski wanted to create a place that would become as legendary on the music circuit as, say, Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. That, of course, is a pretty tall order.

But the evidence to date indicates that he’s not just talking through his hat. Yet talking about it gets him all worked up. His pencil dashes over a calendar of this month’s Breakaway performers, circling various acts as he talks about them--in exclamation points. Pretty soon all of the names are circled.

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‘Happening Music’

“I want this to be a happening place where there’s happening music!” he says. “This place is for people on their way up.”

Breakaway, located on a site that had been a New England-style seafood restaurant since the ‘50s, is a huge place with three dining rooms, large patio, music bar and banquet room. You could practically play football in the main dining room, although the management probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

Suffice it to say that there’s enough space here to accommodate quiet dining on one end and lively original music on the other. There’s even an in-between: On Sundays from 11-2 p.m., you can dine out on the patio to live acoustic classical and jazz guitar.

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Breakaway, owned by Venice entrepreneur Robert Goodfader, who also owns the Sidewalk Cafe on the Venice boardwalk, hosted its first Songwriters Showcase last October at the suggestion of local singer/songwriter Mary Knapp and has subsequently become a pretty hot spot for songwriter/performers. The audience in the music bar obviously comes in for a good time, as well as an original artistic experience such as has rarely been seen in the contemporary music world since the ‘60s, when places such as New York’s Bitter End in the Village hosted such folks as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary.

You’re likely to hear just about anything here--anything acoustic, that is--written and performed by musicians who believe that there is still more to popular music than Whitney Houston. Any subject is fair game: ballads about life on Hollywood Boulevard, humorous tunes about first love, even the IRS.

Fresh Lobster

Sure, Breakaway has kept up the tradition of serving all the best in seafood. It’s a place where you may choose your own fresh lobster right from the tank. The decor, too, is strictly New England new wave. I mean, where else can you enjoy a drink at the bar while watching strange tropical fish in an aquarium made from the cockpit canopy of a World War II P-51 Mustang?

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The Friday and Saturday shows are booked by Hollywood music promoter Mike Giangreco, and the stage sound is ably mixed and managed by a Mr. Bogie Hollywood. Tuesdays are singer/songwriter showcase nights, and Mondays feature open mike, when anyone with an original song to sing can get up and try it out on an audience.

There is a $3 cover charge for the music bar on Sunday evenings. Cover varies on Fridays and Saturdays.

Breakaway Restaurant & Bar, 11970 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista (corner of Venice Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue). Parking in rear. Information (213) 391-3435.


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