Sweetwater Saloon

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Sweetwater Saloon in 2004; it closed in September 2007.
Inside Sweetwater Saloon before opening time, 2004.

Sweetwater was a bar located in Mill Valley, California, with a 30-year history of live musical performances by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Jerry Garcia, The String Cheese Incident, John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana. There were typically at least 4 to 5 musical acts booked per week making it a popular local hangout.[1] The Sweetwater also featured an open mike night on Mondays that occasionally featured surprise performances by well-known artists such as Gregg Allman, Train and others.

The band Hot Tuna recorded two live albums at Sweetwater in the early 1990s[2][3] featuring guest performances by local figures Bob Weir and Wavy Gravy.

BBC Television shot a documentary at the club featuring John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Riatt and Ry Cooder.

In 2004, the establishment faced eviction by landlords who raised the rent to more than what the owners claimed they could pay.[4] The bar was saved through donations, and its lease was renewed when the owners of the building offered new terms.[citation needed] It was not disputed that the new rent was fair, and the owners of the Sweetwater entered into a month-to-month lease.[5]

In September 2007 Sweetwater closed because the landlord of the building found it necessary to renovate the somewhat run-down property and declined to offer the club terms for a new lease after the renovation's anticipated completion.[6] The owners of the building were also the longtime owners of a very popular Italian restaurant next door that had been established in the 1960s. A spokesman for the family that owned the building and restaurant said at the time that the building would undergo long-overdue repairs and maintenance and that the new Sweetwater owners knew about renovation plans since their lease had expired two years previously. "We've been in this community for 45 years," he said. "If we wanted to throw the Sweetwater out, we would have done it a long time ago.".[7]

On Saturday, January 21, 2012, four years and four months after the original Sweetwater ceased operations, the new Sweetwater, owned and operated by a new management and investor group and located in the recently renovated lower floor of Mill Valley's Masonic Temple (opposite Mill Valley's City Hall), held its inaugural music event, a "trade only" party featuring local musician Austin De Lone's band with guest performers including Jerry Harrison (local resident and former lead guitarist for The Talking Heads).


  • Selvin, Joel. "San Francisco, the musical history tour : a guide to over 200 of the Bay Area's most memorable music sites." San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996. ISBN 0-8118-1007-0

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Coordinates: 37°54′20″N 122°32′56″W / 37.90556°N 122.54889°W / 37.90556; -122.54889