The nostalgia for Pueblo’s once-iconic Phil’s Radiator closing was just starting to taper off when the unthinkable happened: The all-ages music venue was revived. In January, Westword reported on the punk haven closing, which caused the masses to take to social media to express their disappointment and share memories of slam dancing in a sweaty pit. Among those who learned about Phil’s closing on Facebook was Heather Ramsey.
“We heard about the old Phil’s closing just about the same time everybody else was hearing about it online,” says Ramsey. “A group of us loved Phil’s so much that we didn’t want to let it go down like that.”
Along with two friends who have since dropped out of the business, Ramsey and Justin Rodemoyer approached former Phil’s Radiator owner Brian McCain about purchasing the venue. Phil’s hosted its silent farewell party on New Year’s Eve, and Ramsey and Rodemoyer also quietly reopened in May, all the while continuing to remodel the establishment without any major marketing. Longtime Phil’s enthusiasts, Ramsey and Rodemoyer wanted to keep the old feel while changing up the look a bit, despite growing voices of concern.
“We still have some of the old Phil’s crowd, and we knew right away that they wouldn’t want things to change,” says Ramsey. “What we’ve done is cleaned things up without cleaning out too much. We want our customers to be respected, and we want our staff to be respected, too.”
According to Ramsey, gone are the days of customers peeing in corners and puking in the pit. After working in bars for nearly the last decade and seeing the lack of etiquette in the old Phil’s, Ramsey says new management is running a tighter ship.
“To be honest, there was a lot of drugs and underage drinking going on, and nobody was paying attention to alcohol being snuck over that gate,” Ramsey says of the old Phil’s. “Not having enough beer or ice and alcohol running out is a thing of the past, because it was just a lack of respect for the customers and for everybody else.”
The new Phil’s includes renovated bathrooms and the construction of an indoor and an outdoor stage. The older Phil’s crowd can relay countless stories of how the bands used to play just feet away on the same sticky floor, the drummer being the only bandmember on a riser.
“We rebuilt the stage, put new sound and light equipment in and built a sound booth, too,” Ramsey says, adding that Rodemoyer is a manager at Drive-In Auto Sound in Pueblo and was able to offer advice on the system. “Since we put in new patio furniture, bands can choose to play inside or outside.”
Phil’s Radiator also includes a new bar, which Ramsey says is a big fixture for the venue itself. What was once just a half-stocked wet bar has been transformed to feature floor-to-ceiling stocked shelves with two flat-screen televisions fixed to the top. The public is coming around to the changes, but Ramsey says the bands are taking it extremely well.
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“The bands are saying that they always feel well taken care of, and they feel good about our sound techs and the state-of-the-art light system,” Ramsey says. “We learned that we don’t need to have the most overpowering sound system, but the bands we bring through are always saying good things.”
The new Phil’s has bands booked through the rest of September, and they now feature weekly open-mike nights every Wednesday and other events like comedy nights and Punk Rock Flea Market. After sixteen years and four owners, Phil’s Radiator is back to rocking Wednesday through Saturday nights starting at 4 p.m., with a cover charge depending on the band.