By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
When Soda Jerk Presents started booking punk and hardcore shows in 1997, its main venue was Club 156, on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder, which had a capacity of just 157. The company, which is headed by Mike Barsch, soon started booking shows at the Raven and then proceeded to buy its own clubs, including the now-defunct Cat, at 2334 Welton Street (which won a Best New Club during its short life), the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs and the Marquis Theater, the space at 2009 Larimer Street that was once a pawn shop, then the short-lived second incarnation of Brendan's.
Now Barsch is taking on another ambitious project: the 12,500-square-foot former Club Bash space at 1902 Blake Street, once one of Denver's biggest — and certainly most controversial — hip-hop clubs, which Barsch is turning into the Summit Music Hall. While the nearby Marquis has a capacity of 300, the Summit can hold over 900, which will allow Barsch to bring in bigger acts as well as the same kind of shows now booked at the Black Sheep and the Marquis. "We'll just continue to do what we do," he says. "There are a lot of acts that we work with that sell out the Marquis, and we've taken them to Cervantes' or the Gothic or the Boulder Theater. The feeling really was that, rather than go into other people's venues and do shows, we're going to own and operate our venue."
The front part of that venue made its debut in time for the Rockies' opening day, but Barsch says it may be another few months before the main room is transformed into a live-music venue, with a completely new stage, a P.A. installed and lights reconfigured. Barsch also plans on constructing a green room for the bands in the back corner, with a staffed bar. "I think it's cool and kind of unique, because most venues just throw everything down in the dressing room," he says.
The space, once a warehouse, was transformed into the Blake Street Baseball Club — a sort of indoor stadium/saloon — when Coors Field opened in 1995, then became the LoDo Music Hall, where Universal and the House of Blues booked shows, before turning into Bash. "We're putting it back as a venue," Barsch says. "I feel that there's a real need for that in LoDo, because everything else around here is either bars or dance clubs. It definitely has its niche in downtown."
Club Scout: When Paul Piciocchi announced that he was closing Tryst in early April and moving the concept to Playa del Carmen, he said its former home, at 1512 Larimer Street, would soon become a new watering hole. After less than a week of remodeling, Dive on Fifteenth opened in Tryst's place. "It's basically a LoDo version of a dive bar," Piciocchi says. "We're keeping the stuff we like about Tryst — the things we've loved over the years, like the strawberry-infused vodka and the staff and the music. We're adding a couple of things just to make it more fun, like new lighting, foosball and a shot wheel to make it little more casual and more fun."
When he opened Tryst six years ago, Piciocchi says, the area was all about trendy cocktail lounges. "There's been a shift of people wanting more casual and fun places," he notes. "Right now, I don't feel like there's a lot of fun, kind of laid-back spaces in LoDo. There are casual bars, but not ones that are fun to be in, so we're trying to make it a little more fun space."
After a few setbacks, Beauty Bar has finally announced a grand-opening date of June 19. Since late last year, owner Noah Ray McMahan has been transforming the former Snake Pit, at 608 East 13th Avenue, into the latest addition to the Beauty Bar franchise, which also includes bars in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.