City Beat

Sacramento’s Pre-Flite Lounge finds new home

Exterior demolition begins at the Downtown Plaza at 515 L Street as the struggling shopping mall began giving way to the site of the new Sacramento Kings arena on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.
Exterior demolition begins at the Downtown Plaza at 515 L Street as the struggling shopping mall began giving way to the site of the new Sacramento Kings arena on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. rpench@sacbee.com

There are only so many basements in downtown Sacramento. But after months of searching, Jason Yee thinks he may have found a winner.

The Pre-Flite Lounge is back.

For more than 40 years, the Pre-Flite sat in a subterranean corner of Downtown Plaza, a few feet beneath the sidewalk on L Street. When the Kings started tearing down a large part of the mall to make way for a new arena, one of the first buildings to go was the Pre-Flite.

The bar closed April 26. The regulars helped Yee, the joint’s young and energetic owner, pack up some relics and put them into storage. Then the hunt began to find a new home for their beloved bar.

They think they have it. On Thursday, the city Planning Commission unanimously approved a permit for the Pre-Flite to open in the basement of 1011 10th St., a stately building just off J Street that once housed a Wells Fargo bank. It’s across the street from the upscale Grange restaurant and next to the trendy Parlare night club.

There’s nothing upscale or trendy about the new Pre-Flite. The door to the new space opens into an alley lined with dumpsters stacked against the side of a single room occupancy hotel. Some of downtown’s more colorful characters seem to like walking through that alley very much.

There won’t be any windows in the new bar. They’re bringing back the piano and the old jukebox. Many patrons used to pose for photographs with an oddly dressed mannequin at the Pre-Flite. The mannequin will be back.

And because it’s in an alley, tucked down beneath 10th Street, you’re going to need directions to find it.

Mike Rodriguez, a regular of the old spot, thinks that’s how it should be. That’s how it was with the old place, too.

“We didn’t want an upstairs place with halogen lights and stainless steel,” he said. “Every place has that.”

Rodriguez, his wife and a friend were sitting in the second-to-last row of the City Council chamber last week when the Planning Commission gave its blessing to the new bar. They were part of a close community who considered the old bar a second home. “It’s been six long months since it closed,” Rodriguez said after the vote was final.

By the next morning, Yee was cleaning up the bar’s new spot. He’s working hard to get the place open by the end of the year.

He said he could have re-branded the Pre-Flite. Sacramento has been big on “branding” lately. But he quickly realized that wouldn’t have been right.

“I wanted something simple to stay true to what the Pre-Flite was,” he said, standing in the alley. “I think Sacramento needs a place like this.”

As the face of downtown continues to change, it’s nice to know the new Pre-Flite will be just like old times.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

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