Walk the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo on a late Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, and you’ll certainly learn one thing if you haven’t already: SLO loves its downtown scene. But if you’re not of the legal drinking age, you may find yourself disappointed at the limited options available to you—until now.
Eye Candy sits next to Woodstock’s Pizza on Osos Street, in what used to be a flour production and distribution center in SLO’s earlier days. The newest addition to the late-night downtown scene is open Thursday to Saturday nights to anyone 18 and older.
Complete with a unique 5-by-21-foot LED light wall imported from Bulgaria that gives Eye Candy its name, the space boasts some of the best local DJs—DJ Sol, DJ Dom, Flight, and Mattie Mayhem—with special guest appearances, like hip hop artist Jonn Hart on June 27. Owner Ryan Benedicto insists the club’s atmosphere is something the Central Coast has truly never seen before.
“If I wasn’t going to sell alcohol, I needed an attraction that was going to be worth it for someone all the way from L.A. or San Francisco to drive to SLO just to check out,” he said. “I did a lot of research in lighting, looking at clubs in Asia and Europe, and found this one company from Bulgaria that makes this LED light wall that I’d never seen before in Vegas or any club in the U.S., and it blew me away.”
Originally from Los Angeles, Benedicto, known on stage as DJ Blindside, graduated from Cal Poly in 2011 with a degree in economics. He wanted to combine his passion for music and dancing with something he could give back to the students.
He teamed up with one of his peers, Ryan Basilio, in their second year at Cal Poly and rented out the Street Heat Dance Studio where they sold out tickets for each event. After graduating and having seen the student reaction to what they dubbed “Club 23,” Benedicto started work on a more permanent solution: Eye Candy, which opened on May 23.
“On the first night, we hit capacity, and it was such a wild night. I mean, it was definitely a learning experience for everyone, but it was packed and there was such a great vibe,” he said.
After paying a $10 cover charge ($8 if you go to the website and sign up on the guest list), guests are greeted with thumping bass and a light show. In the back of the club behind the dance floor are tons of comfortable couches to sit and talk on—or to just take a breather.
No alcohol is permitted or sold at Eye Candy, but a nonalcoholic bar is available every night. For special events, however, Benedicto is allowed to hire a catering company 24 times a year to come in and sell beverages to guests who are 21 and older.
Each night has a different music theme, starting with Thursday Throwdown, which features hip hop hits spun together into one phat session. Fantasy Fridays will make you forget you’re in SLO with their upbeat electronic dance music (EDM) and professional-grade, crisp lighting effects. If you’re the indecisive type, like me, Switch Up Saturdays will appeal as they mix it up between the freshest hip hop and EDM tracks, allowing you to enjoy a little bit of both.
You might even catch Benedicto taking over the DJ booth.
“When I got to DJ my first four-hour set, I took over a Fantasy, and it was so exciting for me because I got to forget all the stresses of running the business and I got to just do what I love to do: be a DJ,” he said.
Benedicto has big ideas and goals for the future of Eye Candy, including themed nights like foam parties and bringing in more special guests. But more than anything, he hopes his guests will come to Eye Candy to enjoy the music.
“I want this to be a club for college students, by college students. That’s the connection I feel like I have over other places with venture capitalists where it’s just business,” he said. “For me, this is a culture and a way I can give something back to students doing something I love.”
Don’t let Independence Day be the end of the patriotic festivities! Go to the SLO Elks Lodge on July 20 and attend the Support Our Troops! No Limit Poker Tournament, presented by San Luis Sports Therapy. Food and prizes will be provided, and all benefits will go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to help military personnel who’ve been injured in service. For more information, visit slsportstherapy.com. ∆
Intern Spencer Vaishville compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your nonprofit and business news to firstname.lastname@example.org.