Can We Be Frank?

By Ron Donoho
Photo by Dave Good

(Published in the October 2009 issue)

Jonathan Frances Frank works quickly. That’s the expected pace behind the bar in a high-energy night club like the Gaslamp’s new Voyeur. “It’s all about speed,” says Frank. “There are some bars around that are great with ‘craft cocktails’-like El Dorado and Syrah-but you don’t expect to wait five minutes for a drink at Voyeur. We’re a f--king night club. We’re built for quantity.”

Voyeur crowds are drawn to the DJ-spun music, go-go dancers and light shows that pop on a giant LED wall. Crowds dance on the furniture as a weekend night revs up. The two-level bar itself seems to contract and expand under the influence of the heavy bomp-bomp-bomp of bass.

There’s Frank (Frankie Frank, to friends) behind the first-floor bar. He is one with the throng of humanity-even while he’s doling out shots of whiskey and tequila. It’s not unlike him to hop up on the bar, get his groove on and even create an indoor snowstorm of bar napkins.

“Management here is badass-you’re encouraged to be as wild as you want to be,” says Frank. “No, we can’t drink while we work, and I was a little bitter about that at first, but I see now how sloppy it would be if we were doing this and drinking.”

Frank has been in San Diego for 10 years. Before helping open Voyeur, he tended bar at Plum Crazy in Pacific Beach and at Aubergine downtown. A native of San Luis Obispo, Frank’s a fourth-generation bartender. He says his greatgrandmother told him that his great-grandfather, Richard Banner, was bartending aboard the Titanic when it sank. The great-grand mother survived; Banner did not.

Some nights, Frank steps into the Voyeur DJ booth. Spinning music is a part-time hobby. “We get experienced and inexperienced DJs, but we have gotten some of the top guys in the world,” he says. “Voyeur is the only place I’ve ever seen DJs jump into the crowd while playing. Every big DJ that’s come in has loved the vibe and wanted to come back.”

Same with Frank. He’s reveling in a job where there isn’t really a dress code, and management encourages frolicsome fun. “This place is good for San Diego,” he says. “It’s unique, but also unpretentious.”

See level

By definition, a “voyeur” is someone who views others without their knowledge, often to derive sexual pleasure. There are several far-out and funky aspects of the goth-driven décor at Voyeur, but one is more voyeuristic than all others. The ceiling above the ground floor bar has see-through glass panels. If you’re wearing a skirt on the second floor balcony, you are forewarned. Voyeurs, heads up.

755 5th Ave. Gaslamp