Printing these review excerpts from the Ugly Mug page on Yelp.com:
"yep, the owner's a jerk. what's worse, is i went to open mic to read poetry and i felt like i stepped into a family gathering where i wasn't invited. not your open, creative, accepting environment , but a group of self serving, snobby people who don't welcome newcomers and instead of actually reading poetry, they stand on stage to grab attention and hear themselves speak. coffee's bad, too. there are much better places to go. save yourself from a bad aftertaste of coffee and people."
"I appreciate that the Ugly Mug supports creativity. Many of the poets I've heard there are very talented, as well. Unfortunately, during multiple visits, I have felt like an unwanted guest in somebody's home. Sometimes it feels a bit like an "in" clique and if you're not in, you're out."
"It's a real shame that the guy that runs this place has the biggest, baddest attitude I have ever met. At first I thought he was one of those guys that acted like a curmudgeon, because it amused him. Hey, that's funny and cool in a perverse way. Sadly, it doesn't take long for one to figured out that... it isn't an act."
And, especially after reading these three comments, to think I wasted time (and probably took a month off my lifespan from the stress) trying to get back in the good graces of the owner and the hosts--something that won't ever happen due to their pride and stubbornness and my one big sin committed way back in 2004.
Moral: Offend the owner and/or hosts, and be prepared for a lifetime ban. Trust me, Phil the owner doesn't kid about these things.
Obviously, I was lucky to have four years of acquaintanceship with Steve Ramirez (didn't know Ben Trigg very well at all during that period)--and, before I caused myself to Walk The Plank, I was also blessed with being considered good enough to feature (based on my open-reading performance), before my talent level became screened out of consideration.
And, during these half-dozen years of banishment, I was hoping to at least be admitted to watch and learn from the higher level of poets featuring there.
It wasn't and isn't to be. Phil the owner behaves like Craig T. Nelson's high school football coach in ALL THE RIGHT MOVES--and Steve and Ben just don't want to deal with the situation (and they have prominent poetry community friends/enablers like G. Murray Thomas, who scolded me backchannel on their behalf awhile back).
Essentially, the poetry community will stand up for progressive causes and people facing alleged Unjust Accusations (i.e. the Free Mumia movement going on in the late 90s when I began reading in coffeehouses). But they, by and large, will not risk their comfort and social standing to associate with unpopular poets, or--egad--speak up on their behalf.
There's a limit to how righteous a poet can be.