After a five-year run, the hip-hop club Cold Crush closed in late October 2017, when its lease ran out and wasn't renewed by the landlord. Five months later, Cold Crush owner Brian Mathenge and some of his team started talks with Curtis Club owner Scott Bagus about collaborating on what would be their new restaurant/nightlife concept, Rock Steady.
Named after one of the New York breakdancing crews that formed in 1977, Rock Steady is slated to have a soft opening in the Curtis Club space on August 9 and a grand opening on August 16.
Bagus, who co-founded the Curtis Club at the corner of 2100 Curtis Street in 2013, has been running it by himself for the last couple of years; he heard about Cold Crush being packed most nights of the week and wanted a similar turnout.
“I thought it would be a good team,” Bagus says, “him being able to pack the place, and my goal is to make sure that the space is used to the maximum. We’re all really excited just to get this place filled up. It’s fun when it’s full. We aim to have a lot of fun and have a lot of people here and just have it be a good open space for everyone to come down and hang out and eat and drink and chat and talk about whatever they want and dance. It’s a good multi-use space: dancing at night and brunch and food during the day. We want to serve lunch eventually. We’re going to get our late-night menu going and happy-hour menu going really strong. Then we’ll roll out lunch and dinner and probably a new brunch menu shortly after that.”
Mathenge says Rock Steady will dish up soul food during the week and focus more on nightlife during the weekend.
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“We just want to have a nice mixed crowd that enjoys food and enjoys good company,” Mathenge says, “and somewhere people can go to have conversations during the day, whether we agree with each other or not. At least we have somewhere we can go, to where just because we don’t have the same opinion it’s not a problem, it’s not a fight. When we first opened Cold Crush, we had a place where people went to discuss politics, where people went to discuss art, where people went to collaborate on music, and that’s what we’re trying to bring back instead of the negative issues that happened when we lost a little control of our crowd.”
Denver rapper Tyrone Adair Jr., aka rapper BossMan Goodie, was killed in a shooting outside of Cold Crush in 2016, which led to the venue at 2700 Larimer Street getting temporarily shut down by the city and cited as a public nuisance. Instead of finding a new home for Cold Crush, Mathenge says he wanted a fresh start and a fresh name.
“Cold Crush had its run, and for the most part it was wonderful," Mathenge continues. "We had a few issues, [and] we learned from those issues. My thing is to re-establish a place in Denver that everybody can go to — black, white, Mexican, Asian, gay, whatever it is you do. And I feel like we got a little bit away from that at Cold Crush toward the end. And we want to bring that back to the original two to three years of Cold Crush when it was just good vibes all the time and no fights and nobody had to worry about their safety. For me, it’s more of rebranding to bring back that flavor of unity in the city, and our clothing drives and food drives, and being a positive part of the city.”
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Some of the Cold Crush team, including general manager Tessa Hibbard, director of art Musa Bailey, and talent coordinator Eric Cunningham, will be on board for Rock Steady. Mathenge says the difference between Cold Crush and Rock Steady is that the new venue is aiming for a slightly older crowd and “trying to get rid of some of the riff-raff,” he says. “We’re changing the music to not so much like turn-up trap music like Migos to more ’90s rap, some R&B, some reggae and maybe even an EDM night. We just want a fresh start.”
While Bagus says there won’t be a whole lot of renovation to the space, the team is building a DJ booth, and the format of the booths will be more conducive to hanging out around the outside walls, and an additional bar might be added. Mathenge says the biggest thing for him is making Rock Steady something of an art gallery, as well.
“Every month, there's going to be a different artist inside and doing the murals,” Mathenge says. “I think we had fourteen murals in our five-year run at Cold Crush. I think probably this time around we’ll probably do it twice as often, just change it up and give everybody an opportunity to have their art inside. Adding art inside the building, it changes the vibe of the scene all the time. Being from L.A., clubs last a year and then they remodel. The way we’re doing it, we don’t have to remodel. The interior is always changing because there’s always new art inside.”
Rock Steady will hold a job fair from 1 to 3 p.m. this Friday, August 3. Mathenge says they're planning to hire around 25 people.