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Temple Nightclub
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Address: 540 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA

Temple Night Club’s Owner Paul Hemming Breathes New Life into Legendary Site
Interview by Sobo (2007)

The site at 540 Howard Street means many things to many people. To the older end of SF’s club crowd it means club DV8, the first and ultimate club in SF’s heyday. To newer club kids it means the hottest new club that offers an organic, spiritual, sanctuary with the best blend of high technology and hospitality.

The person responsible for all this is the owner, Paul Hemming, who last year purchased the real estate and transformed it into an oasis of spirituality replete with ancient Buddhist sculpture and artwork from all around the world. Paul’s vision for Temple night club has been over 10 years in the making as he has been cultivating his tastes and finding his own spiritual destiny through his other businesses like the Zen City Records music label and the Zen City records stores in Oakland and San Francisco.

As Temple moves closes to a full year under their belt I got a chance to speak to Paul Hemming about what lessons he has learned, what growing pains he has suffered, what surprises he has in store, and a whole bunch of other topics.

Sobo: What is the main point you want people to know about all the things going on with the space?
Hemming: It’s such a vast project and there are so many dimensions. It’s an eco-conscious entertainment company. There is the night club, the restaurant, a holistic healing center, a record label, we’re doing multimedia and our own visuals and other content.

Sobo: Are all of these things happening right now?
Hemming: They are all happening right now. The night club is the engine that is driving these other dimensions. The night club opened 6 months ago and Prana (the restaurant) opening about 3 months ago so these have been the focus. It’s an ongoing process of unfolding. This year is all about refining the different dimensions. I just hired a person to run the music label where we will have 2 CDs coming out later this year, Prana, a downtempo/world beat CD, and the Temple Music CD.

Sobo: How do you compare with what you want to do with Temple Music to what Buddha Bar has done with their CDs.
Hemming: I’m not really sure what they have done. Aside from the similarities in aesthetics I’m not sure. I try not to concern myself with what other people are doing. My music direction grew from my background as a DJ and which led to me opening a record store called Zen City Records. So a lot of what is happening here at Temple is an evolution of my background and now that I have an outlet for all my friends that are musicians, DJs film makers, artists and overall creative people I feel like I need to combine all of these dimensions of the creative cycle.

Paul Hemming spinning in the Destiny Lounge at Temple

Sobo: Do you plan on bringing back the Zen City record store?
Hemming: Absolutely. All of my records are upstairs right now and there is a plan in the summer time to open a small space here. I’d like to do a digital download café. Vinyl needs a home and I’d love to help keep it alive by having there be a small section in our retail space and for ordering online. My friend runs this company called Zipadee and they are the eBay of the digital download marketplace and they are going to work with us to set up these kiosks where people can download our entire library.

Sobo: What are the growing pains you have felt in trying to get open and in trying to get your message out to the right people.
Hemming: When I took over the real estate it came with a lot of baggage and my inexperience made things take a little longer. This is my first night club and the biggest venture I have ever taken on but we have navigated our way through all the problems and have gotten rave reviews from the Entertainment Commission.

Sobo: How would you rate your effectiveness in getting people who are going to respect the space vs. just getting people through the doors.
Hemming: I think we have done a pretty good job considering we have only been open for 6 months. Our philosophy wasn’t to target one demographic but to create a new one. We wanted to attract people who were going to be excited about the space and be loyal to the space and not because a big name DJ or promoter which is the model that most clubs use. We’ve taken the approach to work with as many people as possible and hopefully get people who appreciate what we are all about.

Sobo: How do you deal with the syndrome that most new clubs suffer where a new club attracts people only into trends and fads?
Hemming: We have made an attempt to not pigeon-whole ourselves into one segment and to work with a diverse group of people. No promoter has gotten more than one night from us so what that has meant is a healthy cross-section of SF—your Marina crowd, Burning Man crowd, b-boy & hiphop crowd, club heads, Persians, Russians, Asians, and so we have a broad spectrum of people which is what I like to see.

Sobo: How do you answer your critics that say your approach to work with different promoters and different “flavors” every week does not provide overall consistent message for those who want to be regulars.
Hemming: Consistency in the first 6 months is difficult. We do have consistency in the quality of service and in the fact that we have 3 rooms with 3 styles of music. Inevitably there is going to be criticism. Crowds are fickle. But I would say that for every one person that leaves unhappy, 4 more leave happy.

Sobo: How do you feel about having these very spiritual pieces of artwork and sculpture juxtaposed in a setting where there is drinking and debauchery.
Hemming: Life is about duality. Life is about balance and trying to achieve balance. We have had Buddhist monks come in here and bless the space to it really is a Temple. Night club do symbolize a lifestyle of excess but we are trying to change all that by offering a healthy alternative. We aren’t just put these pieces up just for décor without knowing the meaning behind them.

Sobo: You have raised the competition here in SF. How have you felt the crunch of competing for the top DJs?
Hemming: I don’t really see it as competition although the other clubs have resorted to competitive tactics against us and I found out that certain DJs could not play here at Temple. Our strategy is that we are going to do what is best for us. I want every venue to be successful but I feel that what we are doing over here is so above and beyond your typical night club that it ceases to be competition and doesn’t affect me either way. I’m oblivious to what other people are doing. I don’t analyze what other people are doing to determine my course of action.