Grinding, pulsating sounds from inside the club at 1037 Broadway spill out onto the sidewalk, competing with chirping cell phones, loud conversations and a constant barrage of bodies coming in and going out. But despite all the heated activity, there's no line to get in -- at least not yet.
Serengeti, one of the year's most hotly anticipated new clubs, still isn't open. And if scenesters feel like it's taking an inordinate amount of time to finish the place (which just blew through an August opening date), imagine how Regas Christou feels: He bought the building that once housed Jonas Brothers Furs eleven years ago, and it's been unoccupied ever since. He started working on Serengeti (the club's name plays off the jungle mural left by the Jonas Brothers) three years ago, and he's now just a month away from finally seeing his vision realized.
Denver's most renowned nightclub impresario is happy to show off his latest creation, even in its transitional state. As he steps over buckets, ladders and extension cords that snake across the length of the main room and makes his way upstairs, his eyes brighten. "This is better than sex," Regas says. "Look at the power and energy of these people. Don't you feel it? Fuck!"
Although the space looks more like a dingy bus garage than anything else, Regas describes in detail the grandiose, elegant establishment that now exists only in his mind -- and maybe that of his brother Chris, "the hardest-working guy I've ever known in my life, ever," Regas says. From stunning second-floor views of the skyline and mountains, to the two-story waterfall that will feed into a river -- that's right, a river -- flowing under two bridges in the basement that connect the jazz room and the vault, to the two enormous outdoor decks, Serengeti is Regas's most ambitious project to date.
And because of a few last-minute changes -- the bathroom was moved from one side of the building to the other, for example -- Serengeti still has a last hurdle to clear before the city will allow it to open. That incenses Regas, who focuses his wrath on Helen Gonzales, Denver's director of the Department of Excise and Licenses.
"Usually, it's just a simple modification of the premises, but now she wants to have a full hearing," he says. "The neighborhood has no objections so far. Every fucking time I try to do something, she always gets in my way for some fucking reason. She set up a hearing; instead of a simple modification, she wants to have a full hearing. If we have to go through a hearing, it could go either way -- you know how that goes. It's just the same old shit, man. The shit never changes in this city."
"The rules are simple, and they apply to everybody," responds Gonzales. "If he doesn't follow the rules, then it does become more complicated. We have a process that we have to follow. We approve the premises based on the representations made to us at our public hearing. And if they change that, then I think the neighborhoods have a right to know what's been changed."
While moving a Serengeti bathroom "isn't going to have an impact on the neighborhood," she says, "if they're increasing size, which increases capacity -- which is what he did in the basement -- we would consider that a major modification because of the potential impact on the neighborhood."
Margerie Hicks, executive director of the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association, says that her group didn't oppose Serengeti's initial license application. But given some of the changes -- more than a "simple modification," she says, "essentially a 50 percent increase in the nightclub part of it and then a second outdoor patio" -- a committee that reviews all liquor licenses is now re-evaluating the Golden Triangle's position and will make a recommendation to the group's board, which will then write a letter to Excise and Licenses before the department's hearing.
"We now have another notice from Excise and Licenses that a significant area that was going to be the restaurant is now going to be more of the nightclub," says Hicks. "Regas had thought that if there was some initial agreement, there wouldn't be another hearing. So I called Excise and Licenses, because the notice I got didn't say that. And what I found from Excise and Licenses is there's going to be a hearing in either case."
Regas doesn't sound too daunted by the prospect. In opening his other clubs, he's become well acquainted with the process.
"They did it before, at the Church, for a simple modificationbecause I built a patio without asking them. They had a hearing because she said that I intended to sell liquor there," Regas continues. "The judge threw them out of his courtroom, basically. It was a bogus case. But they never thought I would go to court with it until I finally did. They lost on every count, because people in this country don't get prosecuted or don't lose their business because they intend to do something. How does she know my intentions?"
And, he wonders, so what if he did intend to eventually sell liquor on the patio? He didn't need to get permission from Excise and Licenses before he started building a patio; he just needed its permission before he could sell liquor. "She said, 'Because you intended to sell, you should've asked,'" he says of Gonzales. "No, until I sell, there's no violation. So we went to court, and they lost. That is why our city is fucking bankrupt, man -- because of people like that and policies like that."
"You know, I can't spend the energy or time personalizing things," says Gonzales. "It seems to me that Regas tends to go down his own path, and we can help him as much as we can, but there are situations when we just can't treat him differently from anybody else. It seems like that's his m.o. -- he just does things his own way -- and then when it comes down to the approval process, it complicates things. There are processes that need to be followed, and everybody seems to follow them, but we seem to have a few more complications with Regas's locations. But I'm not even going to dignify the personalizing of this with a comment, because things just don't work that way."
The hearing is scheduled for October 17, and Regas and Chris are working twelve-hour days so that Serengeti is ready the minute it gets the okay to open. At the same time, they're also breathing life back into Vinyl and Fat Daddy's, which both incurred substantial damage during the blizzard of '03. Vinyl's roof will be replaced later this week, and the club should be open by Halloween, Regas says; Fat Daddy's will start serving hot plates to the drunken masses sometime in the next few weeks.
Hip-hop hooray: Back in May, the town was a-twitter over the news that Russell Simmons's Hip-Hop Summit would be coming to Denver this fall. Well, it's fall, and there's no Simmons in sight.
But that doesn't mean the summit has flat-lined. According to Charlotte Stevens, director of Denver's Safe City Program, the summit will take place sometime next year, probably in late spring or early summer. City attorneys are hashing out the logistics with Simmons's Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and Stevens expects to have a definitive date early next month.
Although most of the details are being kept under wraps for now, Stevens says that in addition to panel discussions with Simmons and various national hip-hop acts, the two-day summit will include a VIP reception, an MC competition called "Denver Idol" and a Def Poetry Jam featuring local poets (and possibly hosted by Mos Def) on Friday night, with workshops, a lowrider car and bike exhibit the following afternoon and a concert Saturday night presented by some of the summit's panelists as well as the winner of "Denver Idol."
Summits held earlier this year in Detroit, Philadelphia and Birmingham were extremely successful, attracting tens of thousands of die-hard hip-hop fans. Keeping that in mind, Denver has slated its summit for the Coliseum, which holds just upwards of 11,000 people.
Upbeats and beatdowns: GROWednesdays, the wildly popular night put together by Mile High House DJs Josh Ivy and Psychonaut at Harry's in the Magnolia Hotel, is no more. According to Ivy, the night was just too busy and crazy for the upscale Magnolia, which sometimes had to comp rooms for folks who complained about the noise. "For the integrity of the hotel -- which I completely understand -- they needed to not have us there," explains Ivy. "Which sucks, because it was a great night, and it was going really well for us."
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While they scout for a new location for GROW, the two are staying plenty busy. They'll be joined by a couple of European guest DJs -- DJ Kaisa from the Strike Boys and DJ Ekki from Trio Electrico -- at Vesta Dipping Grill (1822 Blake Street) on Friday, September 26. On Saturday, Ivy and Psychonaut will be behind the decks at Rise (1909 Blake Street); they'll close out the weekend at the crew's monthly Unity Gain at the Boulder Theater (2032 14th Street, Boulder) on Sunday night.
In this week's episode of the never-ending series The Day the Music Died, two more Cowtown bands are throwing in the towel. Apparently the Sparkles have lost the will to shine, and FOMOFUIAB are NOMOFUIAB. And that's a damn shame: Both outfits brought a lot of color to the scene, and they'll be missed. (Drummer Mike "Fred" Schneider has already landed on his feet: He'll be behind the kit at all future ION gigs.)
Meanwhile, Bill Houston and company -- perhaps better known to the old-school contingent as Babihed -- have announced that the band will reunite for a one-off show, billed as the "Maximum Retox Tour," at Cricket on the Hill on Friday, October 10. In another memory-go-round, a reunion for Bangles -- the Glendale bar, not the band -- is being planned for Saturday, November 1, also at the Cricket. Don't miss this chance to re-create the drunken debauchery of days gone by.
For those more interested in moving forward, on Saturday, September 27, Etherglow will illuminate the Library Pub in Boulder, while Buckner Funken Jazz, Backbone Velvet and One Bare Foot get all horny at Herman's Hideaway. Then on Sunday, Elctrikchair will ride the lightning with Thron and Canterbury Lane at the Iliff Park Saloon. And finally, on Tuesday, September 30, the Climax Lounge will host a free show featuring the Boss Martians, Pearlene and Reverend Deadeye.