The history of top live music venue 19 East is a peculiar one. Owner Wowee Posadas decided to open it only after a leasing agreement with Dencio’s fell through.
Posadas—also the bandleader/keyboardist of Black Cows and a lawyer by day—reveals 19 East encountered rough sailing in its first two years. And there came a time when he almost gave up.
Find out why in this Q&A.
Take us back in time. When did the idea to open a club occur to you?
Sometime in 2002, the lot currently occupied by 19 East was supposed to be the site of Dencio’s Bar & Grill. But then its owner canceled the contract at the last minute because he needed to migrate to the United States. I figured that if the property was good enough for Dencio’s to operate a restaurant, then it’s good enough for my own plans, too.
Hence, 19 East opened its doors to the public on Nov. 27, 2003—first as a restaurant serving Filipino cuisine. Unfortunately, the business didn’t do well. It was only in 2005 when we added live entertainment that things started to pick up. From then on, 19 East established a reputation as an exceptional live music venue.
Business was bad for 19 East in its first two years. It was only in 2005, when it started to feature live entertainment, that things picked up.
What year would you say 19 East became profitable, and why?
Around 2006. 19 East installed high-end sounds and lights equipment that set it apart from other venues. Good thing, customers took notice of the difference in quality. Another factor, 19 East was one of the very few bars, if not the only bar, that featured, on a regular basis, big acts like Side A, MYMP, Freestyle, and the like.
You were running 19 East while playing professionally as a musician, as well as practicing your law degree. How did you juggle everything?
Time management, basically. Fortunately, managing a music bar and being a musician are not work for me. Music is my passion. Some say that it’s tragic when people lose sight of the gifts that lie within them and just choose to live as a matter of survival. I believe people thrive when allowed to pursue their talents.
What were your biggest challenges as a club owner, and how did you deal with them?
From 2010 to 2011, during stage two of the construction of the Skyway project,19 East was virtually inaccessible and unreachable. It took customers hours to get to the 19 East gate from the Sucat toll exit of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). For more than a year, I had to pay for my staff’s salaries and other overhead expenses with my own money. I was on the verge of closing shop, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Then there was the pandemic. Operations had to stop due to the lockdown and quarantine. Luckily, rent was not an issue since my family owns the lot. Employees were given financial assistance, but of course, it was not sufficient. So, they sought employment elsewhere. But I was so grateful when almost all of them went back to work at 19 East as soon as we announced its reopening.
19 East is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Nov. 27. Are you preparing something special?
On Nov. 26, there will be a free show featuring the band Neocolours. The no-entrance fee is a token of appreciation for everyone who’s supported 19 East for the past 20 years. The performance starts around 8:30 p.m. Customers should come early since seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Also, for the whole month of November, groups of six persons or more get a 20-percent discount on their food and drink orders.
What else can the regular crowd look forward to?
I’m thrilled to announce that 19 East has recently expanded and renovated its music hall to accommodate more guests. The crowd turnout has been increasing significantly, probably due to revenge spending brought about by the easing of the pandemic. Frequently, guests had to be turned away because the maximum seating capacity had been reached. Now more people can be accommodated.
What does your mom tell you about the success of 19 East?
Hope she’s delighted. Of course, her all-out support was a major contributing part in the success of 19 East. And I thank her very much for that.
Also, thank you to the employees who’ve been working hard, the brilliant artists sharing their talent, and, most of all, the people who’ve been going here these past 20 years! 19 East couldn’t have reached this milestone without them.
All photos courtesy of Wowee Posadas. 19 East is located at Km. 19 East Service Road, Sucat, Muntinlupa City