Galaxy Emerges on Club Scene : Pop music: The Santa Ana venue, set to open Dec. 10, will be slightly more upscale than its sister facility, the Coach House, the owner says.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Coach House's new sister club in Santa Ana will be called the Galaxy Concert Theatre and is scheduled to open Dec. 10, owner Gary Folgner said Wednesday.

The Galaxy, which will seat 550 to 600 concert-goers, becomes the fourth concert club in Folgner's growing Southern California network, joining the 480-capacity Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, the 850-capacity Ventura Theatre, and the Coach House-San Diego, a 450-capacity club that Folgner was scheduled to open Wednesday night.

Folgner also is negotiating with officials in Fresno in hopes of launching a concert club there next year. All of Folgner's venues offer the all-ages, concert and dinner-service format he ushered in at the original Coach House in 1986 with the help of Ken Phebus, the concert director who continues to be the lead booker for all of Folgner's clubs.

Folgner said his girlfriend's mother was the first to suggest the name Galaxy for his new club. He settled on it Wednesday after polling employees, concert industry contacts, and "people who just walked in the door" as to which of three contending names they preferred: the Galaxy, the Mercury, or the Moonstone.

Shows announced Wednesday are: Strunz & Farah, Dec. 10; Huey Lewis & the News, Dec. 18; Great White, Dec. 22; Norman Brown and Boney James, Dec. 23; Gregg Allman Band, Dec. 28; Dixie Dregs, Dec. 30; and Richard Jeni, Feb. 4. The Galaxy's information number is (714) 957-0600. Lewis and Allman also are playing the original Coach House, on Dec. 16 and 27, respectively.

Folgner expects to offer 15 to 18 shows per month at the Coach House and 12 to 15 at the Galaxy. About one quarter of the acts will play both clubs, he said.

The Galaxy, at 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., is the same venue that was known as the Rhythm Cafe, which, under different owners, in 1992-93 mounted a brief, unsuccessful challenge to the Coach House for dominance in the Orange County club-level concert market.

Folgner said that his acquisition of the well-appointed, multitiered Santa Ana club is partly a preemptive move to prevent future competitive challenges: "To leave this room in the marketplace would have been foolish, because somebody (else) could have made it a hit."

But Folgner also sees opportunities to succeed at the Galaxy with events thathaven't gone over well in south Orange County, especially concerts by black and Latino acts. Vietnamese shows, in conjunction with established promoters in the field, are also a possibility. Folgner expects additional earnings from catered private parties and corporate events, something he has been able to do at the Ventura Theatre, but not at the Coach House.

"Down at the Coach House it's always going to be a little funkier than here. (The Galaxy) is going to be a little more formal, but not so formal that it can't be relaxed," Folgner said. "I don't want to be quite as upscale" as the pricey Rhythm Cafe was. Unlike at the Coach House, Galaxy waiters will wear black and white uniforms with ties. But the Galaxy won't have valet parking, as the Rhythm Cafe did.

Folgner's San Diego expansion comes with a takeover of an established club, the Flash Cafe. At the newly renamed Coach House-San Diego he is booking many of the bands that play the original Coach House or the Galaxy.

The 450-capacity San Diego club doesn't quite fulfill his dream of opening a larger showcase club in California's second-biggest city. After a long and fruitless search for an ideal San Diego venue, Folgner said, he decided to acquire the Flash Cafe to establish a presence in the market. "It's just going to be a real quaint small club," Folgner said of the venue at 10475 S. Mission Road. The ceilings are "a lot lower" than in San Juan Capistrano, he said, and the smallish stage isn't up to the standard set by the original Coach House.

Folgner said the new club "gives me exposure in the market right now. It's not exactly what I would like to have representing the Coach House, but it will work for the short term." By doing business in San Diego, he said, "the city (government) will know what we do, and (that) will help us acquire a site, and get approval for a site" for a bigger club.

The Coach House-San Diego was scheduled to debut Wednesday with a show by .38 Special. Also scheduled are Alvin Lee tonight and Friday, Craig Chaquico and Warren Hill on Saturday.

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