For 10 years, Larry Mills successfully ran the Living Room—Goleta’s drug- and alcohol-free live music venue for all ages. After announcing plans to move to Utah, Mills was honored at a tribute dinner Monday night, receiving a proper farewell and warm thanks from the nearly 50 Living Room-lovers attending.
In the chatter-filled room at the Del Pueblo Cafe, Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell awarded Mills with a certificate of recognition from the city, and numerous people stood to express their gratitude for his having given them a place to hang out as kids. Since ’93, the Living Room hosted countless bands, film screenings, and social events.
“I never did it for accolades or for recognition, I did it ’cause it was the right thing to do,” Mills told the room. When people express how grateful they are for the Living Room and it’s impact on their lives, he said, “That’s all the recognition I need.”
A modest Mills wouldn’t even agree to be Monday’s guest of honor unless the event doubled as a fundraiser to reopen the Living Room. That’s what Allan Viscarra, Rudi Jung, and KCSB’s Ted Coe plan to do in 2011.
Viscarra, a “regular attender,” as Mills put it, was a club member since he was 11 years old, even winning the Battle of the Bands one year. With Jung and Coe, the trio currently seeks a venue and a sponsoring non-profit organization for the club.
“There’s been a huge push for it the past few years,” Viscarra said. “I wanna open it tomorrow if I can.”
The community support is there. Mayor Connell agreed that reopening the Living Room would highly benefit the community. “Young people are all saying there’s nothing to do around here,” she said. “I’d like to be involved in helping them get it off the ground. There’s a real need for something like this.”
Ryan Mendez also remembers the Living Room’s glory days. The area native, who now plays guitar for the pop-punk band Yellowcard, said he got his start at the local venue.
“I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for the Living Room, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Mendez said. “It’s so heartbreaking that there’s still no place like this anymore. There’s no venue for kids these days.”
Zach Ingram started going to the Living Room in junior high and continued to patronize it till it closed. He’s seen many shows and big names there, he said, and agrees with Mills that the club belonged to the kids. “You know how they’re saying, ‘It was your club?’ It really was,” Ingram said. “If people were in there drunk or high or making a disturbance, the kids would be the one to take ’em to the door. It really drove kids to be drug and alcohol free. Everyone was proud to be sober.”
Viscarra, Jung, and Coe intend to reopen the club and once again establish a safe, comfortable, “free speech zone and think space for youth” as Coe said, where kids can spend their weekend nights. The three will hold a meeting to discuss the Living Room’s past, present, and future at 6 p.m. on January 18, at the Goleta Public Library, for anyone who would like to listen in, share stories, or get involved.