(photos courtesy of The Octopus Literary Salon)
The Bay Area community of artists lets out a sorrowful sigh as The Octopus Literary Salon announces the closing of its doors at the end of this month. Their last day in business will be August 31.
With an eclectic calendar that belies its compact appearance, the Octopus has hosted thousands of events in its four-and-a-half year East Bay run — from book clubs to punk shows. Paintings and photographs from local artists dot its walls, a charming upright piano rests in the corner by the window, and you wonder just how they’re able to pack so many bookshelves (and for its rowdier shows, people) into such a small room.
Sadly, it all comes down to the economics of running an unconventional business in the Bay Area. In a statement on their website, owners Rebecca, Mike, and Ian acknowledge, “We have been struggling for months to get our heads above water, but the reality is we simply aren’t bringing in enough money to continue.”
In many ways, the Octopus has embodied the collective optimism of human creativity. It has served as an incubator for artists with open mic nights and poetry readings, a meeting space for organizers and activists, and simply as a comfortable spot for a warm cup of coffee in an increasingly breakneck downtown Oakland. In short, the Octopus is truly a salon in every sense of the word, and we’re so very sorry to see it go.
Thankfully, the owners have planned a “Viking jazz funeral followed by a karaoke wake” on Wednesday and Thursday August 28 and 29 at 7pm. They go on to say, “This has been a rich and rewarding experience, and we have no regrets. We have lived our dreams.”
Read the full statement on their website oaklandoctopus.org, and swing by next week for a celebratory send-off to one of the finest small-but-mighty venues in the Bay Area.
Bill Murray wearing an Octopus Literary Salon T-shirt during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert