Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom opened fifteen years ago in the historically African-American Five Points neighborhood, once a nationally recognized jazz hub.
“In the early years of Cervantes', we were really the only thing going on in Five Points,” says co-owner Scott Morrill.
Morrill, his former business partner Jeff Howell, and his current partners, Duncan Goodman and Josh Sonnenburg, purchased the club in 2009 from Jay Bianchi. “We had to convince people to come to shows in a neighborhood they were not familiar with and many times did not feel safe going to," recalls Morrill. "It was a challenge."
However, he continues, "music fans slowly got more and more comfortable coming to shows and began to create a demand for more businesses to be developed, such as Coffee on the Point, Dunbar Kitchen and Tap House and the 715 Club. Now there are several new housing developments slated to be completed soon along Welton Street, which will only help the neighborhood thrive. This will only continue to help our business at Cervantes’, when more and more people can walk to a show there.”
As the neighborhood changed, so did Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom and its sister venue, which first housed Quixote's True Blue but eventually became the Other Side. Now the venues specialize in hip-hop, jam bands, electronic music and bluegrass, with other types of acts occasionally peppering the calendar.
Morrill — who put a second mortgage on his house to help open Cervantes' — began upgrading the two venues shortly after purchasing them. They moved the soundboard in Cervantes' down to the floor and installed a new sound system in the room that would become the Other Side; they also renovated the green room, the women’s bathroom, the stages and the flooring.
“We have been constantly improving the venues ever since,” Morrill notes. “Not long after Duncan and Josh came on board, I hired Adam Stroul as my other talent buyer, which also helped our growth as a venue.”
While Morrill and Stroul were recently hired by the entertainment giant AEG Presents as talent buyers, Morrill says that shouldn’t affect the booking at Cervantes’, which is run independently.
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“Cervantes' has its niche and type of music that works there, so that's what we'll continue to do,” he adds.
Morrill says he’d like to continue to improve the venues on all levels and make Cervantes' the best independently owned room in the country.
“We have an amazing staff there that really cares about the venue, and a fan base of regular patrons that is more like a family,” Morrill says. “Cervantes' is a very special place for many people, so really I just want to see it live on and prosper.”
Cervantes' 15th Anniversary Celebration, with the New Mastersounds, 9 p.m. Friday, January 12, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street, $22-$25, 303-297-1772.