The hi-dive will soon be under new ownership
The hi-dive is in the process of changing hands. Rest easy, though: We know the new owners, and we like them. A lot. And trust us, so do you. Like the place they're taking over, these dudes and their investors have got plenty of history in the scene, from playing in countless bands and booking shows to running sound and serving us drinks over the years. Wondering who we're talking about? Keep reading to find out who the new owners will be, how the whole thing went down and what the plan is from here.
"A couple of months ago, they started splitting the liquor license," explains Matty Clark, who's in the process of buying the place with his partner, Josh Terry, from its current owners, Matt LaBarge and Allison Housley (formerly LaBarge). "Sputnik and hi-dive are under the same liquor license. And we -- you know I've been working for Matt at Lost Lake -- and so I was hanging out with Josh Terry, and I was like, 'What are they doing splitting this license up?' We kind of suspected they were going to sell it. We were like the first people they told about it. But then once the word got out on the street, everybody was gunning for it, but he just decided to sell it to me and Josh."
There's a very good reason that everybody was gunning for the place: Long before the Baker District was the thriving nightlife district it is now, the bar at 7 South Broadway was a haven for live music, going back to its days as Seven South and through its later incarnation as Quixotes. And now the award-winning bar -- which has earned several nods as Best Rock Club in our annual Best of Denver issue -- has become a veritable institution.
Matty Clark (right) in front of the hi-dive at the Nathan & Stephen/Hearts of Palms farewell show in 2009.
Unlike the paradigm shift that took place when LaBarge and Housley first bought the place from Jay Bianchi in November 2003 and reopened it as the hi-dive, along with Sputnik, its conjoined twin next door, things are going to stay relatively the same when Clark and Terry take over the space later this month, with the help of a group of investors who are equally invested in the scene: the hi-dive's ace soundmen, Devon Rogers and Xandy Whitesel; longtime talent buyer Ben Desoto; Holland Rock-Garden, Clark and Terry's bandmate in Il Cattivo and Machine Gun Blues; and Track Shack owner Curt Wallach, also of the Legendary River Drifters.
All of the details are being hashed out, but Clark says he and Terry, who's currently managing the hi-dive, hope to have things wrapped up by the time their band, Zebroids, plays the hi-dive two weeks from now, on October 27. Aside from some gradual renovations that will take place within the next few months, Clark and company are solidly committed to the scene and are planning to keep the vibe the same overall.
"We really want to reach out to local bands," Desoto told us back in October 2003, before the hi-dive opened. "We want them to be treated well, and we want them to be happy to play our place. We really just want it to be a place where people go to hang out."
Speaking with Clark -- who's played in numerous bands over the years -- nearly a decade later, it sounds like he has pretty much the same vision in mind. "I want to focus more on local shows," he declares, noting that the calendar is filled up now through mid-January. In addition to an even greater emphasis on booking and cultivating local groups, there will also be slight adjustments to the programming, with a focus on bringing in a broader range of acts, some louder than others.
"It's still going to be the hi-dive, indie rock club," Clark clarifies, "but I'd like to bring in a little more punk and metal and switch it up. Loud shows are awesome in there. And Xandy and Devon know how to mix loud bands, but there's not a whole lot of loud bands that come through there."
From the sounds of it, there will be now, and those bands will all have plenty more chances to play or just hang, as the goal is for the hi-dive to be open even more often than it is now -- with or without a band. "You know that bar is closed ninety days of the year, on average," Clark points out, adding, "We're going to try to make it open 365 days a year."
Clark says Sputnik will remain open under the same ownership, and that the two will continue to have a great synchronicity, despite the fact that the door between the two bars will eventually be blocked up. "We're still going to be tight with those guys," he says. "I don't think either of those bars work without the other one."
Tentatively, there will be a grand reopening party for the hi-dive sometime next spring. In the meantime, Clark, who's been bartending at Lost Lake for LaBarge, says he's looking forward to being back on South Broadway. "Not that I don't like my little exile on East Colfax," he confides, "but I'm ready to come back home.
"I'm pretty excited about it," he concludes. "It's a sacred place."
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