"I've become fond of saying over the last few months, 'It's only money, right?'" says HQ co-owner Scott Happel. "You gotta find a way to laugh here."
He insists he's been able to stay "cautiously optimistic" after experiencing any venue owner's nightmare: HQ was forced to shut down on August 15 after a water pipe burst near the space at 60 South Broadway and flooded HQ Underground, which hosted the venue's drag and burlesque shows. HQ concerts were moved to other venues while Happel and fellow co-owner Peter Ore created a fundraiser to deal with the immediate damage.
Insurance, they soon discovered, wouldn't cover any costs: The surface water exclusion found in most Colorado insurance policies does not protect properties from damage caused by water outside of the building. "It's a pretty clear exception in any insurance policy that no one knows about until it happens. We did not," Happel laments. "Neither us nor landlords received one dime from our insurance coverage."
But they did receive the support of the music community, with benefit concerts and fundraisers. "The music community has been amazing," Happel says. "We've had venues host fundraising shows. The Underground Music Showcase not only donated to our fundraiser, but sent out information to all their people and really helped us raise a significant amount of money toward that."
The venue was recently approved for a $15,000 grant from the city via the ARPA Business Impact Opportunity Fund, too. "It's available to anybody in the construction zone up and down Broadway. Basically, you just have to show that your sales are down 20 percent over a ninety-day period, from before construction to after construction," Happel explains. "And since we were closed for three months, well, that was easy."
And now that a damaged wall has been rebuilt, the main room is open for business, holding its first post-flood show on November 15 with metal bands Inferi, First Fragment, Summoning the Lich and Tómarúm. HQ will host its official grand reopening on Friday, November 17, with DJ Eli of FashioNation spinning new-wave tunes. The grand reopening concert is free, with $5 drinks all night.
"It feels great," Happel says of finally reopening. "It'll have been exactly three months to the day the water main broke. ... It was probably two months of anger and frustration. And now it's been a month of, okay, we're moving in the right direction.
"Once we got the wall rebuilt, structurally, the building was sound. And then we got everything checked as far as fire and water, and all that stuff up and running, and we could open the upstairs," he adds. "There's a lot more rebuilding to be done in the basement before we can open that."
The main venue also saw some small upgrades. "We did take the time — since it is only money — and we improved the stage a little bit, so that'll be a visual difference when you come in," Happel says. "We got a lighting truss put in to have some lights on, and we repainted and cleaned up some stuff, so the stage looks a little nicer and cleaner. We're excited for everyone to come see it!"
He expects HQ Underground to reopen next March, and says that the space will receive a bit of a facelift in the meantime. "We're going to take the opportunity to start from scratch, to maybe make it look a little different, a little nicer," he says. "It won't be identical, but it'll be a space that hosts the same types of events. We just may take the opportunity to decorate a little differently."
In the meantime, he's looking forward to welcoming concert-goers back into the venue, which he and Ore opened in 2021 after 3 Kings Tavern closed during the pandemic. That venue was treasured by the city, and Happel and Ore, who also own the Oriental Theater, have been committed to maintaining its legacy as a beacon for live music on South Broadway, consistently booking quality concerts from local and touring acts, and taking home Best of Denver awards for Best New Club and Best Metal Venue.
"We're excited to let the community come in, say hi and give us a high-five and a smile and hang out," Happel concludes.
HQ grand reopening, 6 p.m. Friday, November 17, 60 South Broadway; the show is free.