Bar Smith Owners Transforming PHX Nightclub into The Monarch Theatre
The former location of PHX Nightclub and the future home of The Monarch Theatre.
When local house music maestros Pete "Supermix" Salaz and Sean "Senbad" Badger teamed up with local restaurateur Edson Madrigal and took over Bar Smith in 2010, the trio helped turn the downtown Phoenix nightspot into an arty haven for DJs and urban street culture.
And now for their next trick: transforming the old and busted PHX Nightclub next door into a new nightclub and music venue called The Monarch Theatre.
Within the past few weeks, the triumvirate of Salaz, Senbad, Madrigal (who run Bar Smith and collectively make up the Solstice Management Group) began leasing the property that formerly housed the now-defunct hip-hop club, which is immediately adjacent to Bar Smith. And they've got some big plans for the place.
"It's primarily going to be as an electronic music venue," Salaz says. "Our hopes are to pick up larger electronic music acts and DJs that will bring in a crowd that Bar Smith couldn't handle."
The monarchs of The Monarch (from left): Edson Madrigal, Sean Badger, and Pete Salaz.
Currently, he adds, their aim is open The Monarch on April 20 and host big-name EDM acts on Saturdays. Meanwhile, mid-level bands, electronica artists, and DJs of a Latin bent will be featured on Fridays. Some of the musical styles being spun include rock en español , salsa, and merengue.
Salaz says they're eager to bring in more Latin-oriented acts to downtown's nightclub Mecca along Washington Street, which already features such Hispanic hotspots as Sky Lounge. While Bar Smith itself offers a Latin night on Thursdays, the DJ/club owner says the Monarch will attract a more mature crowd.
"Just like with electronic music, there are so many different subgenres and they have their own little crowds now, and it's the same with Latin music. There are different subgenres and there are also different levels of acts that a venue can host and afford," he says. "So when you have a bigger venue a different scale has opened up. So we envision that Fridays at The Monarch will be an older, more adult-oriented Latin crowd, whereas Thursdays at Bar Smith is more of a younger Latin crowd. It's like how [Bar Smith weeklies] Solstice and Sticky Fingers have different average ages."
Solstice Management Group took over the erstwhile PHX Nightclub, which hosted hip-hop and R&B nights since it originally opened in 2008, after learning that its previous proprietors was declining to continue their lease.
"We basically had a heads-up from him and the landlord that this was going to happen, so it didn't take us by surprise, so after moving some things around we were able to come up with a lease."
Salaz says a flurry of changes is taking place inside the club as it transforms into The Monarch. The two-story property's first floor is undergoing a major renovation that includes installing a new dance floor and some of the bar area, as well as new lighting and an upgraded sound system.
"We're also going to change up the decor and color scheme quite a bit. The Monarch Theatre is sort of envisioned as sort of an old-timey theatre type of thing, so we want to add some heavy drapery and some back bar lighting to accentuate things," he says. "We're definitely going for more of a cleaner feel, I would say. Whereas Bar Smith is more urban and has that street cred kind of thing going for it, the new place will be more streamlined."
Once that's done, he adds, there are plans to tackle the upper level.
"Right now, our primary focus is to get the first floor open since we're already paying rent on the property, and that's a lot of weight for Bar Smith's shoulders to carry," Salaz says. "But once the main floor is up and running and generating revenue, we'll focus our attention on the second floor. Right now off the top of our heads we're thinking an ultra-lounge with maybe even some fine dining or space for art shows and stuff like that."
While Salaz says that The Monarch's focus will be on EDM artists and DJs, they're hoping to occasionally feature a variety of local bands throughout the week, either in the main room or in the upstairs lounge.
"It's a big space upstairs, so music-wise we'd might have, say, some deep house, downtempo, neo-soul type stuff from DJs, or maybe some spoken word or jazz trios type of thing. But that's down the road, like eight months off," he says. "Downstairs we will be equipped for live music. My goal is to have a home for local bands, like instead of always having DJs as residents. And maybe have it be a place for where touring acts can come through. But that's not going to be our primary focus."
In the meantime, there's plenty of work before the Monarch's scheduled grand opening later this month.
"If you were to look at the venue right now, you'd say, 'No way, it's a long way to go,'" Salaz says. "But it's all in the hands of professionals right now like carpenters and installers. It's all just a matter of coordinating with people we're writing checks to now. We've got a lot of things that we're gonna grow with that might not be there per se on [April 20], but for the most part there will be a lot of stuff ready to go."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.