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Foreign Legion's Prozack Turner on His New Oakland Bar, The Legionnaire Saloon

Posted by Billyjam, August 6, 2013 05:30pm | Post a Comment

Zack Turner 
talks to the Amoeblog about his new Oakland bar The Legionnaire Saloon

With a name that triggers in your mind the name of his hip-hop group (Foreign Legion) and a storefront design that makes you think it's an Irish pub that's been there for years - Zack Turner's recently opened The Legionnaire Saloon on Telegraph Ave. between 23rd and Grand, also has the feel of a bar that's been there for years. However this latest Oakland music bar/club only opened at the start of March this year, in the space formerly occupied by gay bar Club Paradiso, but since then has taken off big time and established itself as an important component of the vibrant Uptown District nightlife scene of Oakland with entertainment (with a lot of love for the DJ including hosting The 45 Sessions) ranging from hip-hop to rock, comedy to burlesque, and (yes) even Irish traditional music nights.

The Legionnaire Saloon is the lifelong dream of Zack Turner (AKA talented hip-hop emcee Prozack Turner) the former co-owner of Oakland's Layover bar/club and member of longtime Bay Area hip-hop act Foreign Legion. In fact a few weeks ago he and Foreign Legion partner in rhyme Marc Stretch, along with current DJ Tim Diesel, performed upstairs at the venue during the premiere presentation of the monthly Blunt Club Oakland. Even though Zack and his wife just had their first born (a baby boy named Cassius) about a week earlier (Marc Stretch became a new dad a week later) Zack was full of energy and seemed like the happiest man on the planet or at least in the room. At the end of the above interview video is a short clip of Foreign Legion that night doing their 2002 single "Happy Drunk" which, with its references to drinking and partying in Oakland, seemed it was prematurely written as the theme song for Turner's new bar.  

Regarding his former bar The Layover, which was profiled here on the Amoeblog three years ago, Turner commented that, "I moved over here and I am doing my own thing. I always wanted to do my own thing and I wanted to do more live music at the Layover but was restricted by the size of it. Here at Legionnaire there are two floors to do two parties simultaneously." And as for the reason to give the bar that distinct Irish appearance from the outside and vibe on the inside? Zack's many trips to Dublin, Ireland provided part of the inspiration while the rest was something he noticed about downtown Oakland. "It is the only city I have been to that doesn't have a proper Irish bar in its downtown area," he noted. 

Not surprisingly many people who stop into the bar or drive by it believe it to be a longtime Irish bar - as witnessed by some of the Yelp reviews it has gotten on Yelp and also the Irish traditional musicians who approached Zack to do (the now weekly) Tuesday nights at 7pm Slainte Irish traditional jam sessions. But much like Oakland the Legionnaire is a nice mish mash of different cultures and flavors. There's a variety of Irish whiskey to chose from at the bar, a Metallica pinball game  to play in the downstairs back area (one of a few arcade games), music that could be classic funk/soul or punk rock, and a clientele that range in age, race, and sexual orientation.

But the one common theme of the Saloon is that it is all about Oakland ("the town") and being proud and supportive of a city that for so long was the underdog. A longtime resident of Oakland Zack Turner states in the above video interview that, "I care about this town" and want "to give back" to the community.  "I think it's changed a lot but I also think it needs a lot of work. There's still a lot of crime," he added referencing the prostitution, drug dealing, and gang activity that he has observed in his immediate surroundings. "It's almost like [San Francisco's] The Tenderloin around here with people breaking into cars and all these other crimes," he said. "But if you are not moving into the neighborhood and contributing good stuff then nothing is going to change."

Clearly Turner sees this as a chance for him as a business owner to help make that positive change, to uplift Oakland both culturally and economically. In the above video interview, recorded outside the club one weekday afternoon a few weeks ago, he speaks on these things. He also talks about how years of touring as member of a hip-hop group and sleeping in a van prepared him for fatherhood and dealing with all the challenges of having a new baby - and on how he balances life as bar owner, new father, and active hip-hop musician. And as The Temptations "Ball Of Confusion" 45 plays in the background he talks about the charity generating jukebox the bar has gotten a positive rep for.

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The Legionnaire Saloon is located at 2272 Telegraph Ave (between 23rd St & Grand Ave) Oakland,
CA 94612. Upcoming shows include Masta Ace and Wordsworth plus BPos, DeeJay Saurus, Max Kane, and more on Friday  Aug 23rd as part of the monthly Blunt Club Oakland party.  For a full schedule and other info visit The Legionnaire Saloon website or connect with the Legionnaire Saloon on Facebook.

Relevant Tags

Oakland Uptown District (1), Oakland Nightlife (1), Tim Diesel (3), Zack Turner (1), Prozack Turner (3), Oakland Downtown (1), Legionnaire Saloon (2), Blunt Club Oakland (2), 45 Sessions (5), Dj Platurn (35), The Town (14), Hip Hop (65), Foreign Legion (10)