By Rikha Sharma Rani
Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, the well known downtown Oakland nightclub that closed in early 2009 after a high-profile showdown with the Oakland Police Department, reopened its doors in July. The grand opening was marked with a birthday celebration for club owner Geoffrey Pete. Pete’s birthday is March 5.
On his birthday three years ago the OPD shut down his club for security concerns. Pete, a longtime nightclub owner and prominent civic leader, has apparently bounced back from a judge’s decision to dismiss his claim that the OPD violated his civil rights.
Geoffrey’s has been a cultural institution, a Mecca for music lovers that attracted some of the greatest cultural icons of our time: Muhammad Ali, Robert Redford, Michael Jordan, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, to name a few, Pete says. “People tend to want to come to the place that is not only the most hip, but also the most culturally rich,” says Pete.
Pete, always well-dressed and standing 6’ 4” tall, is charismatic, gregarious and serious, with memorable witticisms. He’s the guy that everyone wants to talk to at a party. His sober demeanor belies a dry sense of humor.
The decor at Geoffrey’s reflects a cultural richness that feels more supper club than nightclub. Dramatic white columns surround the hardwood dance floor, and iconic black-and-white images—Cornell Capa’s The Savoy Ballroom and Art Kane’s Jazz Portrait—decorate the walls, evoking the jazz clubs of yore.
Born in Alameda and raised in Berkeley and Oakland, Pete started in the nightclub business waiting tables and bartending. In 1990, he opened Geoffrey’s, in Jack London Square. Three years later, he moved the club to its current location on 14th Street and rechristened it Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.
The club hosts regular parties as well as private events — birthdays, concerts, fundraisers, book signings and even a screening of films from the Oakland Underground Film Festival. Pete’s activism on behalf of underprivileged communities, his hire Oakland advocacy and his first-class feedings for the needy and homeless during every holiday, has earned him the respect and loyalty of many bay area patrons who are proud of the club’s history and feel personally invested in his success.
Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, 410 14th St., 510-839-4644, www.geoffreysinnercircle.com