Must-haves: A couch in the garage, a grill in the driveway

Michael Parayno. Photo: Eric Arnold.

On December 10, we published a story by Sarah Henry on Multi Culti Grill Birdland Jazz, an informal BBQ supper club run by Michael Parayno, who is also known for his artisan birdhouses. The city is threatening to close down the Grill for code violations. Many readers left comments on the article expressing their support for the initiative which, they said, has brought a great sense of community to this north Berkeley neighborhood. Mike himself sent in this note:

Thank you, Sarah, for capturing the essence of Birdland and the community of Birdlanders.

Just like the birdhouses, the jazz/BBQ events started out as an accident. May 28th, Memorial Day, was when it all started this year. I wanted to BBQ for friends, and I hadn’t bbq’d for a while and I didn’t have a grill. So I bought a grill and smoker after doing a little research.

I don’t really have a backyard since it’s full of birdhouses, so the only place for the grill was my driveway in front of the building by the North Berkeley BART. My friends and I just pulled a few chairs out front for our first BBQ and I think a futon.

Community people passing by and BART commuters were curious about our BBQ, and we just invited them. That was the start. Since it was World Cup season anyway, and since I was not teaching in the summer except one class, we decided to have another BBQ and more neighbors joined. Craigslist gave us more futons.

August was supposed to be the end of the community BBQs, but no-one wanted to stop the gatherings, especially after one neighbor played with his jazz trio in the garage which was full of birdhouses and a station wagon. And the rest is history.

This has been a community undertaking since the very beginning. All I had was a BBQ grill, and a garage with leather couches. Now it’s a supper club. Wow, we should all put a leather couch in our garage and a grill in our front driveway and open more supper clubs to our neighborhood.

What I’ve enjoyed the most from this undertaking are the Berkeley High School Jazz kids that play here with so much enthusiasm and their supportive parents. They are very addicting to be around. What energy. So come to our final gala event this Friday to see how special our community energy is in this area.

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  • Above birdland

    I’m currently living on the second floor of “Birdland” and I’m a visiting student in Berkeley. Those bbq’s is one of the best things I was glad to experience during my stay here. I started to participate in June and only missed one during the whole time. It almost became essential for me to be there on friday’s, having a good time, meeting a whole bunch of new interesting people every single time. Also getting to know a few people pretty closely which made it a little family to me.
    I’m of course looking forward to be at the last one as well, which will be the last one for me anyways, since I have to leave in early January. I feel sorry though for all the other birdlanders who have been supporting this great idea.
    Hopefully future turns out well and it has been a pleasure being part of this event and the community.

    Wish you all the best, Mike.

  • R.


  • EBGuy

    Michael has tangled with the city of Berkeley before:
    Until a few months ago [2005], Parayno used to work out of his mammoth garage below his one-bedroom apartment, but says that the city of Berkeley shut him down after frequent complaints from his upstairs neighbor that the property was not zoned for commercial use. Parayno says that the city also made him cover the name and phone number of his business from the doors of his pickups.
    I certainly give him credit for his creativity, but I might feel differently if I lived next door. Then again, I suppose a once a month community building blowout would be preferable to student neighbors who partied every weekend. I don’t think something like this would happen in Elmwood. YMMV…

  • tram Cao

    i think the birdland is a great place for people to relax by the music and food. there’s also a place for people can make friends. the jazz/BBQ events are friendly and great. thank for the events.

  • i grew up in that neighborhood, and birdland is the only thing other than mr. mopps & guerilla cafe that makes that neighborhood still feel
    like home. berkeley sucks now! because berkeley has sucked up the last outlets of expression for the artists that called it home for so long.

    long live birdland!

  • Tweetie

    It is very clear what Michael is trying to create: a community of peace and happiness, no discrimination, only love for food and passion for jazz. I am not speaking for Michael, but I am sure this is what he has in mind.

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world…

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us —this line is for the haters
    And the world will live as one.

    The song is very simple to understand. I blame ignorance of the haters.

    I am very proud to be a part of a community like this! Share the world, share your music!

  • Daniel

    What exactly is the problem with these barbecues? If there is a real issue (noise complaints or something), then maybe something can be worked out. Mike is a reasonable guy, not the sort to intentionally cause trouble. Perhaps there is a compromise somehow. Hell, if you came to him to complain, he would just invite you inside and give you free chicken and have you listen to some tunes.

  • Ethan

    This event is crakin.. I have fun meeting new people around there and we are not causing trouble to the community. There is no good reason to shut it down. No freedom to persue happiness. =) by the way Sir mike he’s cool..

  • Shina Zhou

    sir mike is really cool!! I am his one of his students, and I have been there(birdland) before. there were many handmade birdhouses, cool bbq party, great jazz concert on FRIDAYS!!!!!
    really love it!!!!

  • Ritchie Le

    Parayno’s event is awsome! It is a family orienated place where both adults and children can enjoy the great food while listening to smooth jazz. The host, the band, and the people volunteering their time to serve and cater to the guest are friendly. The atmosphere of the jazz club gives out a positive vibe, which is relaxing for those who haven’t experienced a jazz club before.

  • Betsy

    What a shame to hear the City of Berkeley is shutting down Birdland.
    If city officials were willing, I’m sure a compromise could be reached between Michael and the authorities to ensure the continuance of this fantastic event. Having participated in
    several myself, I’ve seen the transformational effect Birdland has had on the neighborhood – extending to the greater Berkeley Community. It seems so short-sighted to curtail an event like this on the basis of code violations. If our neighborhoods had more on-going events like Birdland, we’d all be a little happier and perhaps a little closer. Is there any way to get a petition going and collect signatures? Just a thought.

  • Ruiqi Chen

    the birdhouse outside Michael’s backyard are very nice…most of them are made of recycled wood. I really love the BBQ!!! ^_^ and the party is wonderful.

  • Dalison I.

    I loved the atmosphere of the event. Everyone in the event was very friendly and very sociable. The food was delicious and the music was very entertaining.This is my first time attending a live jazz event. For my first time attending, this was definitely a good experience filled with joy and happiness.When I was young I always thought that jazz band events were boring. Now after witnessing a live jazz band event, it was really fun and enjoyable. The event engaged people into coming together and listening together as a community. This even really helped the community bond together while enjoying food and jazz.

  • Tin T Truong

    I think the Birdland is a great place for people, I have fun meeting new people, people! Please support Michael Parayno. the City of Berkeley is no good reason to shut it down!. O__ @ __0

  • Binh T Nguyen

    I think Berekely Cty shouldn’t shut it down. Support Michael Parayno:)

  • Jian Feng Xu

    This BBQ/ music event has brought a lot of fun to all participants, and we really enjoy it because we can listen the music while we are eating the BBQ stuff. It also gives an opportunities to people who want to have a place to gather together. It helps people know more about each other. There is no reason to shut down this such wonderful activity.

  • Steve Shiboski

    Birdland is a great contribution to the N. Berkeley community and the Berkeley jazz scene at a time when there are few active local jazz performance venues. The number of people attending every week and the range of musicians that have played there are testaments to the interest and need for this kind of resource. It has also been a terrific place for young musicians to play, and many current and former students from the jazz program at Berkeley High are regular performers and attendees. It would be a huge loss to see it shut down because of “code violations”. I urge the city to make every effort to clarify what steps need to be taken to address these issues, and allow Michael and the many enthusiastic patrons of Birdland to keep this valuable community resource open.

  • Jun Luo AKA Reanna (CCSF)

    Only in Berkeley… Awesome Jazz and food for a donation! I mean really, you gotta see it to believe it. Mike has to be one of the most creative guys I’ve ever met, and when he does something it’s all the way. So no wonder when he decides to have a casual get together on Friday nights, it turn into a feast of incredible ethnic foods and awesome live music. The crowd is super chill, diverse and interesting.PLEASE DON NOT SHUT IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Qiquan Li

    The Birdland is a good communicated stage where people can relax, where people can meet new friends. I have visited one time last month, and I liked the incredible jazz music which brought a lots of joyce to people. Friendly people,delicious food, and blue jazz left me a poignant memory. I would like to come back again.

  • Jian Luo

    Mike’s club has Awesome Jazz and food!! It is a very fun and chill place to meet new people and have fun there! PLEASE DUN CLOSE IT DOWN!!

  • Chan Kit U

    In this event, I really learn a lot stuff, and I really enjoy it. I met a lot different people, but when i get there i really feel confused on it. Of course i went there with my friends, and we ate there, and listen music. It is awesome. Also it is my first time to join this kind of event, it is really nice and friendly. So if there still have these kind of events, I will go there once as always.

  • Mick Del Rosario

    Who else would be so generous as to have random people from BART commuters and the community enjoy the festivities that Michael holds. The events held here are enjoyable and definitely brings the community together. I urge the City of Berkeley to work with Michael and team of the Birdhouse to ensure that these events continues.

  • jpd ott

    In reference to Birdland Jazz and the Multi Culti Grill:

    Count one more voice raised and beer hoisted in support of Birdland Jazz/Multi Culti Grill! And to the city officials who want to close this event – why don’t you come and join in instead. You’ll be welcome and you’ll have a good time.

    I’ve known the BJ/MCG impresario Michael Parayno for a long time and know him for what he is – an out in the open good guy who likes to have fun and bring joy to others. And he has conceived a great medium for both with his Friday evening wingdings.

    The main issue seems to be that Michael’s events are moneymaking ventures. Certainly, Michael has an entrepreneurial gift that is the envy of many. And equally certain, we all plunk down a few bucks for an evening of food and music. But freedom isn’t free so why should a good time be? And if Michael blurs the line between commerce and community, his true and loyal friends know for sure which side of the line he stands on where we are concerned.

    There are marvelous and some would say miraculous things happening Friday nights on Sacramento Avenue. For instance, one participant even swears that he watched the food multiply before his very eyes as Michael gave it his blessing. Although I can only report this as hearsay, I do recall hearing of a similar occurrence at some time in the distant past that many people still regard credibly.

    Of course, this may sound completely ridiculous, which, of course, it is. But so is the fact that in this era when the government fails to effectively regulate the airlines, the banks, Wall Street and polluters the city of Berkeley has the time to regulate a bunch of people engaged in the free exercise of their right to pursue happiness. The real question is not whether some obscure city code is being violated but whether it is the right of the people freely and peacefully to assemble that is being violated. It’s time to bury arbitrary and intrusive bureaucracy in a deep hole under steel reinforced concrete along with a few metric tons of nuclear and human waste. Keep it up Michael, you’re a good dude and you lay down good food and that’s worth a lot. And remember – inferior minds are always trying to shackle the great spirits.

    One word of advice to Michael – in future photo ops lose the cigarette, you don’t want to be a bad influence, and as much as we lament the passing of the beats – they’re history.

    To the city officials weighing this matter – Free Birdland! Let it fly, let it soar! Forevermore!

    Signed, JPD Ott

  • Julian Merino

    I was surprised upon hearing that both Birdland Jazz Club and Multi Culti Grill might be closing down by the end of this year. Michael Parayno is my Asian American Studies professor at the City College of San Francisco and offered me to come to the weekly Friday barbeques. I went to a few and a Manny Pacquiao fight. What I found very special about Birdland was the strength of the community it built by those who attended. That evening, Little Brown Brothers, a Filipino jazz band, had performed a couple of their pieces. They were followed by the Berkeley High School student jazz ensemble. I truly feel that Birdland is a safe haven for these jazz artists to perform. It is a sanctuary where their passion and love of music is admired by the audience. Without it, these artists will have difficulty finding other venues where their music can be cherished. Birdland revitalizes the culture of jazz and the subculture of Filipinos in jazz by allowing their music to be heard for dozens of ears. This also stretches out to the grill where a diverse choice of ethnic delicacy is created. All kinds of delicious food is shared. Hopefully this place doesn’t get shut down because Mr. Parayno is such a hospitable individual. He just wants to share the essence of history, culture and expression to the masses in a small intimate setting. Is that so much to ask?

  • Jia Lin Huang

    I think jazz music is not loudly. On the contrary, it makes us feel confortable. I love the Berkeley Birdland Jazz Concert and I will continue to support it. Jazz music is an amazing power that it can connect different kinds of people together. Although we come from different cultures and different countries, jazz music is just like an language that it can let us be able to communicate with each other and have fun together.
    I hope I can go to the birdland jazz music concert next time!

  • Lina Uyen Ho

    I was shocked to hear that they wanted to shut this place down. I went there ones and I believe it was great. I would be really pissed if it were to close down. Its like closing down a community and you get to meet a lot of people. This allows us to get closer to the people in the bay area and living that individualistic idea out of our society. Great jazz music, good food, and meeting people who care about one another. Its not even noisy, when I got there I was shocked since it stated it was noisy. Not noisy at all and its pretty cool how the garage is transformed into a little jazz club. People who want this place close down probably do not have a good sense in music.

  • Francis

    I think that this place is a fantastic place to enjoy jazz music. The Fact that people want to shut it down due to noise doesn’t make any sense to me. I find jazz to be a really mellow genre of music. This place is also a great place to get in touch with the community, shutting it down would greatly reduce the cultural value of the area. Keep this place up and running!

  • Nate G

    Birdland shouldn’t be shut down. Its an amazing place to listen to great jazz, have some extraordinary food, and just sit back and relax to the calm and relaxing atmosphere. Its a place where the community comes together. Students from all over the bay area come here to listen and support to the amazing bands and to to relax themselves from a hectic week of school. This is an event anyone can enjoy, from the youngest to the oldest, who doesn’t enjoy a little jazz in their life. Why prevent anyone from enjoying an experience like Birdland.

  • Danny Li

    Mike’s party’s are a treat to the community and funded by him, and donations from people in the community only. The party’s are very friendly and a great place to meet people and hear good music. People come from all over the bay area to come to these events that are all to rare in our communities, Birdland jazz should be here to stay.

  • Lyrics R

    Birdland Jazz is a super awesome chill spot to kick it at if you ever find yourself at Berkeley on a Friday night. The music is lively and extremely calming after a long week of tedious schooling or work. Not only is Birdland a good place to relax and wind down, but it’s also a great place to bring your friends and family to enjoy good music, barbeque and s’mores. Birdland is open to anyone and there’s a huge community turn out. There’s no good reason to shut it down!

  • Sandee

    the birdland jazz is an aweosome and a relaxing palce to chill and have a good time with other people on a Friday night. Playing jazz music and having great food to eat, Why shut it down when its such a huge hit in the communty.