Ava’s Lounge offers live music four nights a week in Penryn

Couple’s venue helps promote local talent
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Four times a week, music lovers can enjoy live entertainment in the comfort of a familiar Penryn restaurant.

Ava’s Lounge, occupying the back end of Cattlebaron’s Café, has been open since September, and promoters Darin and Debbie Houser have been steadily lining up a packed schedule of live music. Fridays and Saturdays feature a mix of music, from country rock, hip-hop and Top 40 to blues and acoustic rock, depending on who’s playing. Sundays are open mic nights, and Thursday’s audiences get to hear Darin Houser play smooth jazz.

Darin Houser is a retired saxophone player who spent his career playing with Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Money, Jackson Brown and more. He and his wife started their promotion business, Restless Wind Entertainment, to give back to the music community.

“We want to give back to music as a whole, and allow bands to have a place to play and bring their people in,” Darin Houser said.

The Housers, who live in Alta Sierra, invite performers to contact them about playing at Ava’s. Bands and solo acts can call or email their information and experience to Darin Houser, who will use his 25 years of experience to advise even the newest of acts on how to get themselves heard.

“We won’t close the door on anybody who wants to come play here,” Darin Houser said. “All we ask is that they really do their part and put their fliers out so that they’re ready to bring in some people and play.”

Musicians are paid, excepting Sunday open mics, splitting the cover charge with the house. Most times that’s $10, although the amount could vary depending on the act. Darin Houser said that as Ava’s evolves he’d like to get in big-name acts while at the same time promoting local music.

“We also want to look at maybe doing comedy nights and just different things – just mix it up a bit,” Debbie Houser added.

The couple met owner Alex Mathiopoulos when they came in for a drink while he was tending bar. He recently took over the family business, and was interested in the ideas the Housers had for the location.

“They brought it up, said it should be a venue, and brought up the idea of music,” Mathiopoulos said. “I just went with it.”

The crowds have been steadily growing, he said, and audiences are enjoying the mix of tunes. Other draws to the venue are the welcoming fireplace and the fact that it has a raised stage, dining tables and full restaurant and bar services.

“It made it a very exquisite evening to be able to listen,” said Shannon Sargent, of Auburn, who came to Cattlebaron’s on a Thursday night dinner date and was pleasantly surprised to learn there was live jazz.

“It worked out perfect for us,” said her date, Rick Helwick, of Roseville.

Ava’s Lounge is not limited to people 21 and over. Teens and children are welcome until 10 p.m., when the restaurant closes.

Live music starts at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, and 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Musicians have available to them a 32-channel mixer and speakers, a stage and professional lighting, and musicians of all genres are welcome to play at open mic nights.

“It’s open to everyone,” Darin Houser said. “What we’re trying to do is open up an artistic market where each and every artist has a place to show their talents.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at



Music lineup

Smooth jazz 7 p.m. to close Thursdays, open mic at 7 p.m. Sundays

When: 9 p.m. to close Fridays and Saturdays 

Where: Ava’s Lounge, 3129 Penryn Road, Penryn

Cost: Cover varies, call (916) 740-0131

Jan. 27: Big Iron, country rock

Jan. 28: Christian DeWild Band, blues and rock

Feb. 3: Downshift, hard rock

Feb. 4: Dudley and the Do Rights, country rock



Got a band?

Contact Darin Houser about playing a gig at Ava’s Lounge. Call (916) 740-0131 or email