For nearly four decades, Washington’s Sports Bar and Grill, in Old Town Fort Collins, was known for its peanut butter burgers and quarter beer nights, among other things, until it closed in 2016, the same year the Bohemian Foundation stepped in to buy the building, with plans to turn it into a music venue.
After extensive remodeling, Washington’s (the name was retained to honor the building’s history) is celebrating its grand opening on Saturday, February 3, with a show by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. While the 900-person venue was completely overhauled and new sound and lighting systems installed, some things from its previous incarnation remain, like restored stained glass behind the bar and the trolley in the entryway.
Greta Cornett, Bohemian Foundation's marketing and talent coordinator, says the bands Washington’s will book will be diverse, and Ben DeSoto, who was label manager at Greater Than Collective and a longtime talent buyer at the hi-dive, is on board as talent buyer.
“We want to offer something that people in Fort Collins look forward to coming to and being a part of and supporting the live scene,” Cornett says. “We also want to stay true to supporting Colorado bands and helping develop artists and audiences alike.”
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Cornett says Washington’s isn’t looking to compete with the nearby 650-capacity Aggie Theatre, which opened two decades ago and was bought by the folks behind Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom in 2015.
“We want to see all the venues succeed,” Cornett says. “We want to find our place in the scene as well. We felt like to have a healthy venue ladder and to have a healthy music scene, you need the different-sized rooms. We want to make sure we’re supporting them and working together with them, because the overall goal is for Fort Collins to have an incredible music scene.”
Cornett has watched the Fort Collins music scene grow over the past two decades, while working in the music business and playing trumpet in the ska band 12 Cents for Marvin. "A music revolution is happening” in the city, she notes, thanks in part to the Bohemian Foundation, which is behind the Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest, the Music District (a five-building campus that helps foster music and musicians), and the 200-person Armory. Cornett says a lot of support for the scene has come from Colorado State University, which she says has incorporated a lot of live music into the school’s activities.
Some of the shows on tap for February and March at Washington's include DeVotchKa, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Blitzen Trapper, Michael Kirkpatrick & the Honeyrider Band, Lucius, Shovels & Rope, Martin Sexton, the Oh Hellos, Anderson East, and the Rebirth Brass Band.