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By then, Hill's partner had bailed, seeing that the club was losing money every week. Hill took over, but instead of closing the place, he started sinking money into improvements, repairs and advertising. He upgraded the sound system and put in a new mixing booth and a high-grade lighting rig. He ripped out walls, cut the bar in half, carved an outdoor smoking area and fixed everything that looked like it needed fixing. To date, he has invested nearly $80,000 in the club-all out of his own pocket.
Gradually, the club's bad rep vanished. The bands came and fell in love with the room. Chain Reaction, as it's now called (the people who own the Public Storage storage company threatened Hill with legal action if he didn't dump the old name), now has a much better, well-deserved, musician-friendly rep.
They actually pay bands, for one thing. With real money. They let bands keep the cash they make from T-shirt sales, instead of taking a percentage, which is common practice at many larger clubs and venues. "We tell bands from LA that, and they can't even believe it," says Aaron Christopher, who books most of the club's pop, rock and ska shows.
"I've dealt with the best and the worst promoters," says Martinez, "and Tim is the best. Usually, if a band doesn't like something, the promoter will just tell them too bad-if you don't like it, don't play. But Tim is cool. If a band wants something, they usually get it."
"My bands love to play there," says Pileggi. "And they're totally hospitable. At some other clubs, you're almost guilty until proven innocent. At Chain Reaction, you're innocent until proven guilty."
With all the cash Hill shells out-on bands, staff, equipment, maintenance and who knows what else-coupled with the no-alcohol policy, you gotta wonder how his club could possibly make any money.
"We might make a little one month," Hill explains, "and then the next month, I'll lose a little bit. So it kind of washes. But it ain't always about making money. It goes way deeper than making money."
How deep? How does a guy who had only been to a fistful of concerts in his life (lame ones, too, like Alice Cooper, Yes and Cal Jam I), who never went to clubs when he was the age of most of his current customers, who didn't have a clue about how to run a rock club two years ago-how does such a guy suddenly become one of the major players on the OC scene?
"I honestly don't know why I'm doing this," he says. "I could say I do it for the OC music scene, but that would be bullshit. Maybe I just realized there was a big demand for a place like this in OC, and that's what made me want to keep it open. But maybe it's a quest to be the best. I'm very competitive. I feel like I'm ready to go up against other promoters right now."
Hill tells you that he wants his little club to be as famous as the Roxy or the Whisky A Go Go someday, a bit of braggadocio that you snicker at-until you consider that Hill has already pulled off what until recently seemed impossible. And if he can keep an all-ages club going in Orange County, you get the feeling that the guy can do just about anything.