Nic Nassuet stood in front of an audience on Tuesday night, clutching a microphone and leaning on a cane, as he launched into Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.”
A few moments later, the entire audience of about 100 people at Sardo’s Grill & Lounge in Burbank swayed to the music, breaking into a mass singalong.
The bar at 259 N. Pass Ave. was hosting the last karaoke night for porn industry workers before closing its doors after nearly 50 years in business.
“It’s like a fraternity here,” said Nassuet, a musician from Hollywood who has been coming to the karaoke nights with his wife for five years. “It’s like Cheers for misfits and weirdos.”
Since 1968, Sardo’s has been a go-to place for karaoke lovers, offering pizzas, burgers and a wide selection of hit songs from Britney Spears to Evanescence.
But now Seymour Satin, Sardo’s owner, is ready to close that chapter.
Rising costs, combined with slow sales and growing real estate prices in this neighborhood packed with major film studios, including the Walt Disney Co. and Warner’s Bros., have made it difficult for owners like Satin to keep their business.
“I tried to find another location for the past two years, but it is extremely difficult to move a business in Burbank,” Satin said.
Satin joined Sardo’s in 2003 as a manager after working as a librarian for an oil company. Then 10 years ago, the 60-year-old resident of North Hollywood purchased the business from the former owner.
But the business eventually hit rocky ground.
A few years ago, Caltrans shut the 134 Freeway for nine months. When the bar finally reopened, many regular customers never came back, Satin said.
Then in 2015, a fire broke out in the kitchen, causing nearly $200,000 worth of damage.
The blaze took a toll on Satin’s business and personal finances as his insurance skyrocketed from $9,000 to $18,000 a year.
To offset loses, he tried to increase prices on his menu, but his customers began complaining.
When his landlord raised his rent in January to $10,000 a month, that was the last straw.
On Tuesday night, the line outside stretched into the parking lot, as many people came to say goodbye to their favorite karaoke bar.
“I know everyone here,” Satin said, as he greeted guests, hugging and kissing people on the cheek. “Emotionally, I feel destroyed and lost.”
Inside about 120 guests packed the small neon-filled room. Three large screens on the wall showed lyrics mixed with photos from past karaoke events.
Nicki Hunter, an adult-film actress who has been a karaoke night host at Sardo’s for eight years, introduced singers and cheered the crowd.
“I grew up here,” Hunter said, adding that she started visiting Sardo’s right after she moved from Florida 14 years ago. “I’m very sad it’s closing now.”
David Lord, a director from Reseda who said he visited the bar about 20 times but rarely sang, said many people in the porn industry are relocating to other cities. That’s taking a toll on businesses like Sardo’s.
“The porn industry changes, and a lot of people are moving to Las Vegas,” he said, adding that karaoke may also be losing its hype for young people.
Satin stood outside at the end of the evening, hugging and shaking hands with his guests. Friday will be the last day for customers to come and sing their favorite songs.
“I put my heart and soul in this place,” he said. “I have no idea what to do next.”