Phoenix Nightlife Openings and Closings of 2017

The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.
The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. Benjamin Leatherman
For the Valley’s music and nightlife scenes, it’s been a year of dramatic openings and closings.

The past 12 months saw downtown Phoenix’s music and nightlife scenes get a boost, thanks to the opening of high-profile concert venue The Van Buren and hip watering hole Gracie’s Tax Bar.

Meanwhile, Scottsdale’s nightlife district took a couple of hits after a few notable spots (including Livewire and Cake Nightclub) closed down. It wasn’t all bad news, however, as a new nightclub, Ellure Lounge, debuted.

Elsewhere, two Phoenix strip clubs were shut down following deadly incidents and Dan Majerle’s namesake sports bar fouled out of Scottsdale.

Here’s a look back at the Valley’s music and nightlife opening and closings of 2017.

click to enlarge The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. - ROBRT L. PELA
The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.
Robrt L. Pela

The Van Buren
Of course we're going to lead with The Van Buren. After all, the 1,900-person capacity concert hall made a big splash when it opened in August.

And it’s hosted a ton of great shows ever since.

Built inside the 20,000-square-foot former home of Phoenix Motor Company and co-owned by Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents and Live Nation, the venue has become a go-to spot for live music during the latter months of 2017.

Plus, it's just a cool place to be. The Van Buren’s massive stage features a proscenium arch rimmed in gold leafing and surrounded by an epic desert mural depicting a simultaneous sunset and moonrise by Gary Patch of Tucson-based company Patch & Clark Design, who helped create the venue’s look.

The mezzanine level’s catwalks are adorned with wrought-iron railings and provide the chance to scope out what’s going on in the lobby, as well as great views of the stage. And since opening, that’s included such acts as Thundercat, Chicano Batman, Sylvan Esso, Death Cab For Cutie, Indigo Girls, PVRIS, and Portugal. The Man.

Gracie's Tax Bar
After spending seven years as the lead singer for metal band Landmine Marathon, Grace Perry left the band in 2012 to pursue other endeavors. And one of them wound up being Gracie's Tax Bar, which opened in July.

Envisioned as a laid-back watering hole and hangout in downtown Phoenix with plenty of character, the bar features a chill vibe, cheap drinks, killer jukebox, and zero attitude. There's also kitschy decor (including mismatched furniture and taxidermied animals), board games, and the occasional live show, just in case you need another distraction.

click to enlarge A look inside Ellure Lounge in Scottsdale. - COURTESY OF ELLURE LOUNGE
A look inside Ellure Lounge in Scottsdale.
Courtesy of Ellure Lounge
Ellure Lounge in Scottsdale
Located in the Stetson Drive property that once housed the ultra-upscale Six Lounge, Ellure follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by offering a posh atmosphere. The debonair lounge, which debuted in January, includes leather and suede seating, mahogany floors, candlelit tables, and walls adorned with crushed velvet.

There’s also a floor-to-ceiling waterfall, a color-changing LED wall behind the bar, a seasonal drink menu, and a private entrance in the back for VIPs.

click to enlarge Livewire in Scottsdale didn't last. - COURTESY OF EVENING ENTERTAINMENT GROUP
Livewire in Scottsdale didn't last.
Courtesy of Evening Entertainment Group

Livewire in Scottsdale

Opening an upscale concert venue like Livewire in the heart of Scottsdale’s nightclub-heavy entertainment district was a bit of a gamble. And, ultimately, it was one that didn’t pay off.

Evening Entertainment Group, the local restaurant and nightspot company that owned the venue, pulled the plug on Livewire in July after two-and-a-half years of staging concerts. The 1,100-capacity venue, which opened in late 2014, featured plenty of awesome touches (including an enormous eagle made from guitars and amps atop its stage) and great performances by Lil Wayne, Steve Aoki, and actor Jeff Bridges’ band The Abiders.

It apparently wasn’t enough to sustain Livewire, which will be replaced by a “high-energy Mexican food restaurant" called Casa Amigos and a state-of-the-art bowling alley called Sky Lanes.

Cake Nightclub in Scottsdale
Cake Nightclub was a bit of a rarity in Scottsdale’s nightlife district. While other spots function as restaurants by day and dance spots by night, Cake was purely a nightclub, and a stylish one at that.

The 350-person capacity spot boasted a French chateau vibe mixed with Scottsdale verve with its leatherette booths and crystal chandeliers, as well as a libertine atmosphere aimed at the young and beautiful crowd.

Cake, which opened in early 2014, was frequently packed, right up until its sudden shuttering in mid-October. According to Scottsdale-based company Riot Hospitality Group, which ran the spot, Cake’s lease expired, which forced its closure.

click to enlarge Majerle's Old Town fouled out over the summer. - NEW TIMES ARCHIVES
Majerle's Old Town fouled out over the summer.
New Times archives
Majerle’s Old Town in Scottsdale
Just across Saddlebag Trail was Majerle’s Old Town, which closed down over the summer. The Scottsdale location of the Valley sports bar chain owned by Phoenix Suns star Dan Majerle originally opened in 2011 and served up food, libations, and a mix of DJs and dancing at night.

A photo posted to the chain’s website stated that "Majerle's is packing up and moving out of the club scene," but didn’t cite the specific cause behind the location’s closure. Riot Hospitality Group is reportedly planning to open a new concept spot at the property sometime next year.

click to enlarge Phoenix strip club Centerfolds Cabaret. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Phoenix strip club Centerfolds Cabaret.
Benjamin Leatherman
Centerfolds Cabaret
Deadly drama caused the downfall of this long-running North Phoenix strip club. In January, local off-duty firefighter Luke Jones died after being allegedly assaulted by Centerfolds doorman Brandon Draper. Phoenix Police arrested both Draper and club manager Timothy Piegari, who was accused of allegedly disconnecting the club’s security cameras during the incident.

Because of the arrests, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control quickly yanked the joint’s license to sell alcohol, which resulted in its closure. (Centerfolds’ then-owners later agreed to permanently surrender the license.)

click to enlarge The now-defunct Plush Gentlemen's Club in Central Phoenix. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
The now-defunct Plush Gentlemen's Club in Central Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman
Plush Gentlemen's Club
Centerfolds wasn’t the only strip joint to close after a fatality. In June, Valley resident James Oliver Turner was shot to death during after-hours event at Plush Gentlemen's Club near 17th Street and McDowell Road.

According to Phoenix Police, a heated argument between male patrons turned into a fight, causing multiple people to be ejected from the club. One of the 86’d persons returned and opened fire inside the Plush, including hitting Turner. He later died at a local hospital.

Plush Gentlemen's Club reportedly never reopened after the incident.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.