by Rachel Swan
After years of squabbling and several abortive proposals, Oakland finally figured out what to do with the eyesore at 1733 San Pablo Ave. that used to house Sweet Jimmie's blues club. San Francisco nightlife entrepreneur Michael O'Connor -- who now operates the Independent club on Divisadero St. -- has teamed up with Skyblaze Recordings owner Namane Mohlabene to open a new entertainment hub at the long-defunct San Pablo location. The new owners plan to redo the club's stucco facade and give it a more genteel, Victorian look. They'll divide the interior into a nightclub, two clothing boutiques and a high-end restaurant, Hibiscus. It will be a far cry from the old Jimmie's which fell into ill-repute after Jimmie's son David (aka "Sweet") took over the booking and turned it into a hyphy club. The place was a prime piece of real estate (right on the cusp of Uptown), but it became a stain on Oakland's nascent entertainment district.
Several people have tried -- and failed -- to turn the old Jimmie's into a new hip-hop or salsa club. These guys are a different story: The Independent has plenty of name recognition, and Mohlabene has a solid reputation in Oakland as a former liason to city council member Nancy Nadel and brother of the famed soul singer Goapele. At present he and O'Connor are slogging through the permit process, which should go smoothly. Last night Oakland City Planning Commission approved the proposal unanimously.