Music News

Opponents of Electronic-Music Club Freeze Kulture Music Hall Out of IceHouse

The IceHouse will not become the home of an electronic-music club.
The IceHouse will not become the home of an electronic-music club. Facebook/Icehouse Tavern
Despite months of planning by two local music entrepreneurs, the historic IceHouse at 1801 Wynkoop Street won't become the home of a new electronic-music venue.

"At the end of the day, we want to have a positive, collaborative relationship with our neighbors," says Ryan Simonds, who had hoped to open Kulture Music Hall, an electronic-music club, in the 11,400-square-foot basement of the IceHouse. "With so much opposition, we really didn’t see that happening. We didn’t want to be in a situation where down the road we’re continuing to battle with people who don’t want us to be here."

On May 2, hours before a scheduled hearing before the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses on a proposed tavern liquor license with a dance cabaret, Simonds and partner JonathanTrahan pulled their Kulture Music Hall application.  The partners' decision came after a flood of complaints, especially from residents of the IceHouse who said that an electronic-music club was a terrible fit for the basement of the circa 1903 building, once home to Littleton Creamery and the Beatrice Foods Cold Storage Warehouse.

"Our concern was always that the IceHouse is a historic building, and it was built long before technology and architecture allowed for soundproofing in buildings. Our building has concrete columns that go up from the basement all the way up the floor, so vibrations resonate all the way up the columns. There are things you can do for sound mitigation, but you can’t do that for vibrations, and bass causes vibrations. And this was going to be a bass club," says Lynda Baker, a resident of the Ice House Lofts, who used to serve as board president of the building's homeowners' association. Aside from the approximately ninety units in the Ice House Lofts, the IceHouse also houses the Icehouse Tavern and Rodizio Grill on the ground floor.

Posting QR codes that led directly to the Kulture Music Hall website — which stated that "The underground has returned to Denver" — Baker and other IceHouse residents were able to rally opposition from a wide range of groups. The Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association attempted to craft a good-neighbor agreement between all of the parties; after LoDoNA was unable to work out mutually agreeable terms, it notified Excise and Licenses that it formally opposed the cabaret license application. Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega, an at-large representative, also sent a letter stating her opposition, focusing specifically on potential safety issues that could arise from having an electronic-music club in the area.

She's not opposed to music clubs, Baker says, but the genre matters. "If there was a jazz club or a different kind of music venue, that would be a wonderful addition to that space," she explains. "But electronic dance music has such high bass and high vibration."

The basement of 1801 Wynkoop Street has been home to other restaurants and clubs, including the Boiler Room speakeasy. It's a "beautiful space" and was the "exact right size" for the club, according to Simonds. "It felt like a natural fit for us."

But the rest of the neighborhood was not. Simonds says he has sympathy for what residents of LoDo have gone through in recent years because of the club and bar scene, including some fatal shootings that have taken place in the early-morning hours when fights spill out from clubs into the streets.

"Even now, I feel like there’s a lot of demand in that area, but I think they have to recover a little from recent events," says Simonds. "We’re not a known quantity. We’re asking them to take us on face value. I think that they’re not ready to do that."

Part of the demand for a new electronic-music venue was created when Beta, once the top electronic-music club in Denver and just a few blocks away at 1909 Blake Street, was transformed into a hip-hop club by new owner Valentes Corleons. Now it's closed altogether.

"The reality is that most people in this scene know that Beta hasn’t been the same ever since it changed hands. I think a lot of people in the electronic-music scene felt the loss of what Beta used to be," says Simonds.

Simonds and Trahan say they have their funding and equipment ready, and are now looking for a new venue for their club.

"We don’t need to be in a specific part of town. The biggest thing for us is being convenient," says Simonds. "It really depends on the space. There are so many variables in picking the right spot. We’re very choosy."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.