There has been a lot of turnover among Des Moines area music venues in recent months. House of Bricks, Hull Avenue Tavern, and Krazee Kafe all closed their doors in the last seven months, and El Bait Shop cut almost all of its music schedule. Now another wave of announcements has been made.
Raccoon River Brewing Company, a Western Gateway restaurant and brewery that has been hosting 8 to 10 live music events per month, announced that it would be closing last week. The Clemens Building that houses the business has been sold, as has the adjacent Hotel Fort Des Moines. Instead of enduring two construction projects, management elected to close the business. RRBC will officially close its doors on March 7 after 18 years in business.
Two former House of Bricks employees are working on opening a new concert venue near Drake University. Erik Brown (a musician, himself) and Anne Mathey (the House of Bricks manager when it closed) are reworking the Drake area bar The Dublin, located at 2307 University Avenue. The venue, to be named Lefty’s Live Music, will host both all ages and 21-and-over music events covering all genres. Brown and Mathey hope to announce an opening date soon for the venue. The building will hold roughly 300 people.
One of the music venues that closed late last year, Hull Avenue Tavern, is close to reopening. The tavern, billed as the oldest in Des Moines, was sold abruptly last September. However, due to legal paperwork, license, and insurance issues, the transfer of ownership to new owner Jason Boggs (of the band Resurrection Mary) and subsequent opening remains delayed. Boggs, who had been working at Zimm’s Food & Spirits, had announced that the Hull Avenue Tavern would reopen last Saturday, but he again ran into a snag–this time with the finalizing of his inspections. He is hoping to try again this Saturday.
Yet another Des Moines music venue now finds itself in limbo. The building that houses the Gas Lamp (formerly Blues on Grand) at 1501 Grand Avenue was recently purchased by Kum & Go, who is building a massive new headquarters one block east of the building. While both Gas Lamp officials and Kum & Go officials have said that the music venue’s operations will not be interrupted in the near future, no comment was made by either side on the long-term plans for the property. Kum & Go also purchased several other properties just to the west of the Gas Lamp, which does not bode well for the venue’s future.
Despite all the changes in the music landscape in Des Moines, the city’s music scene appears to have advanced greatly from where it was ten years ago. Ten years ago was when the Des Moines Music Coalition got its start. Now that same Des Moines Music Coalition that brought the city the 80/35 Music Festival, Gross Domestic Product, Little Big Fest, Music University, and other great additions to the local music scene is calling for the addition of a mid-sized concert venue to bridge the gap between Wells Fargo Arena and the smaller venues like Wooly’s, Vaudeville Mews, and the Gas Lamp. DMMC founding partner (and 80/35 manager) Amedeo Rossi, who owns Vaudeville Mews, has teamed up with Wooly’s co-owner Sam Summers (who also runs First Fleet Concerts) to develop plans for a music-only venue with a capacity of around 1500 people. While the project has been in development for several years and has been recently presented to elected officials and business leaders alike, no financial backing has been secured as of yet. A good mid-sized venue could be exactly what the city needs to take that next step in the development of its music scene–if the city can generate the crowds to sustain the venue.
Do you think that Des Moines could support a 1500-capacity music-only venue? Sound off in the comments below.