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Double IPA Fest goers show off their beers at the Feb. 7 event in downtown Hayward.

The Bistro: Hayward’s source for local shows

February 20, 2015

The Bistro, a bar and restaurant on the corner of B Street and Main Street, is one of the only live music venues in Hayward since 1994.

From open mic nights to local and touring musical acts, The Bistro is an entertainment venue in a city that otherwise does not offer live entertainment on a regular basis.

“I don’t see [live music] every night but it’s here every night,” said Jerry Burke, who does accounting and bookkeeping for the venue. “Sundays I usually come in for the jazz jam or the blues jam.”

The Hayward live music scene seems to be a thin one, but The Bistro maintains their schedule of regular performances.


“We’ve been having live music here for 7 nights a week for 18 years,” said co-owner Vic Kralj.

While some venues have attempted to have regular live music, Kralj believes that not charging a cover for audiences to watch the shows is a main reason why his venue is able to continue being successful.

“This is it,” said Burke, “I can’t think of any place around here that has live music, certainly not every night.”

The Bistro books bands based on local talent that will draw a good-sized crowd, however, bands can reach out to the venue themselves to ask for a show. When calling into the venue, there is an option for bands looking to book a show.

“It’s the only place that has put itself out there for having live music.” said Eduardo Gonzalez, who has booked shows here in the past. “There are nearby bars that also do it but have not built up a reputation for it.”

“[The owner] picks the people that he thinks will draw a crowd in,” said Burke, “And so far, it’s worked.”

“The touring artists, they love it, said Kralj. “All the local artists love it because it’s a place to play, and people come out and watch them.”

“It’s at a convenient distance for people living in Hayward, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and San Leandro, and it’s one of the few venues in those cities,”

said Gonzalez. “There is lots of foot traffic, a good selection of beer, and you can book a show with lots of available slots. The people in charge are very open to different genres and are friendly.”

The Bistro also hosts weekly “Open Mic Monday” events. The goal of these is to showcase the diverse talent that Hayward can provide. Performers are added to a list on a first come, first serve basis and are given time to perform musical acts.

When performers show up with a full band, they can usually play up to 3 or 4 songs. Other open mic acts include local poets, singer-songwriters, and comedians. They are given around 15 minutes to perform.

“We have a house P.A. and house drums and people can come up and play,” said Kralj.

On a more regular basis, the small stage to the right of the bar hosts jazz, rock, blues, the occasional punk show, and many other styles of performers.

Live music events are held weekly and are free. Customers don’t have to worry about paying cover charges or additional fees added to their food or drink bill. Live music is hosted by a different emcee every week, and gives drinkers and eaters something to listen to.

In addition to live music, The Bistro holds the Double IPA Festival, which is their largest event of the year and celebrated its 15th anniversary on Feb. 7. For the last seven years, this event has been apart of SF Beer Week, a 10-day showcase of the Bay Area’s best beers.

The Double IPA event draws around 2,500 beer-tasters to B Street, according to Kralj, to sample some of the ‘up-and-coming microbreweries’ latest creations, as well as some more established brands.

With 64 double IPA’s, and 36 Triple IPA brews on tap, breweries such as Track 7, Sierra Nevada, and Firestone make an appearance in downtown Hayward.

“They closed the street off all the way down to ‘C’ [Street],” said Burke. “They had about a hundred beers available with judging downstairs. It kind of rained off and on, but it didn’t dampen people’s spirits.”

The Bistro in downtown Hayward will host Bad Boy Bruce and the Blues Mob this Saturday, as well as nightly events that can be found on the venue’s calendar.

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