Local concert guru Charlie Levy has something cool in the works for downtown Phoenix -- and, no, its not an attention-grabbing festival à la Viva PHX or Los Dias de la Crescent. Instead, its a brand new music venue.
Levy, who co-owns the Crescent Ballroom and runs concert promotions company Stateside Presents, is opening a second live music spot in downtown Phoenix called Valley Bar sometime next month.
And while Levy told New Times recently that the new venue will offer a similar mix of bands, musicians, comedians, and spoken word artists like the Crescent (and even cracks a joke about how "Crescent's having a baby") it differ a bit from its progenitor.
First off, there's the fact it will be underground.
Valley Bar will be located on the lower level of a three-story mid-century building (formerly known as The Hub) that's situated along Central Avenue near Monroe Street in the heart of downtown. Given that basement bars (and basements in general) are a definite rarity in Phoenix, the venue is likely to have a certain unique and cool vibe not unlike long defunct subterranean downtown lounge Monroe's Food & Fine Spirits.
"It's an old building and it has a really cool feel and vibe down there the way it is now, just raw with really cool columns and great woodwork. And we're going in there and trying to not mess it up and enhance what it already has and let it be what it is," Levy says. "For us, its going to be fun to have a basement bar right in the center of downtown. Having that space, what makes it fun and interesting, and its going to be really unique for Arizona."
Levy says that the 8,000 square-foot space will include a stage for performances, a billiards room with games like pool and pinball, a kitchen run by Short Leash hot dogs, and a separate lounge called the "Rose Room" that's named after former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford and will feature cocktails inspired by Phoenix politicians. If that weren't cool enough, the venue's entrance will be via the alley adjacent to its building (a.k.a. "Punk Rock Alley" from Viva PHX).
The cool factor isn't the only thing that Valley Bar will have going for it when it opens, as its ideally situated a block or two away from three different light rail stations and around the corner from the Hotel San Carlos, Seamus McCaffrey's, and a future Cornish Pasty Co. location.
"[Our] office is in that building and there's always been a "B" [elevator button] to the basement that's locked and I didn't know what was down there for the longest time," Levy says. "One day I asked the landlord what it was like, and he showed me and it was filled with junk. And I was like, 'Can I rent it out? This could be a really cool music venue down here with a big lounge and with pool tables." And he let us do it.
Like with the Crescent, Levy isn't the only person involved with Valley Bar. Local bar impresario Tucker Woodbury, who worked with Levy to open the Crescent, is also involved, as are employees of Stateside and others in Levy's immediate circle.
"Its really a team effort," he says. "I brought it to everyone at Stateside and Crescent and was like, 'Hey you wanna do this? It'll be crazy but it will be really fun and unique...everything that we like.' They were like, 'Go for it.'"
As such, Levy humorously refers to Valley Bar as "their baby" when he spoke with New Times. Its gestation, however, has been a lengthy one. While Levy hasn't formally announced Valley Bar before now, its been a project that's been in the works for several months.
"It's just taken time with construction and permits and making sure we have our ducks in a row because having a venue in a basement is not something that everyone does every day. So it just takes a little more time than putting a venue in a strip mall in Chandler because you need to bring in power and air and good stuff like that," Levy says. "It's just because we want to make sure we do everything right."
When asked why he wanted to open a second live music spot in downtown in close proximity to the Crescent, which has been a smash success since opening in 2011, Levy has a deadpan response: "Because I'm crazy and Tucker and I are stupid and like to work ourselves to death," he says, laughing.
All jokes aside, however, Levy says it was an opportunity he couldn't resist. "A basement venue and bar? It's gonna be fun. That's it. There's no real rhyme or reason besides that," he says.
While there are still many details to iron out before Valley Bar opens next month, Stateside has already booked a slew of upcoming shows in the late spring and over the summer at the venue, including Ximena Sariñana on May 23, Cas Haley on May 26, The Life and Times on June 19, and Memory Tapes on July 12. Levy anticipated that the first nationally touring act will be Wolf Alice on May 19, although he admits that they may also have several local bands help break in the place earlier in the month.
He says that Valley Bar will also showcase "a lot of great Arizona artists, up-and-coming artists, and a lot of fun weeklies," such as Southside Soul Saturdays with bands, a cumbia night on Fridays with live musicians, a regular jazz night in partnership with The Nash on the second Wednesday of the month, and a monthly spoken word series called "This Arizona Life."
"It's like Crescent, where once we get going, hopefully we'll use it for everything that we can," Levy says. "You know I don't like to close down for a night."
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