The Waiting Room’s last show (’til Jan. 22), Filter Kings, Broken Spindles tonight; wanna buy a music venue?

Category: Blog — @ 5:26 pm January 2, 2010

So here’s the deal with The Waiting Room, as told to me by the proprietors — Jim Johnson and Marc Leibowitz: Right after the bar closes after tonight’s show featuring Filter Kings, Broken Spindles, Black Squirrels and The Bruces, a small crew will begin clearing out the place in preparation for the venue’s interior demolition, which begins tomorrow.

In essence, the ceiling throughout the entire venue will be “raised” to the same level as the ceiling in the main stage area. That means all of the existing ceiling everywhere else — and whatever’s above it (including a small room) — will be ripped down to expose the building’s true ceiling. Some of the interior walls also will be demolished, opening the sight-lines for the entire space from the bar forward. Johnson told me that the demolition will be full effect on Monday.

After everything is torn down, the new opened-ceiling room will be refinished with the necessary electrical and ventilation and everything else that needs to be done to make the room usable. Johnson told me a new drop ceiling will be installed over the entranceway area that will open up to the full room. The bar area also will see some enhancements, and the rest of the venue’s walls will either be recovered or repainted. In other words, you’re not going to believe what the place looks like when it’s done.

Or sounds like. As part of The Waiting Room’s “facelift,” the stage’s PA will be enhanced, with the speakers hung from the ceiling (or “flown”) similar to how the PA is hung from the ceiling of The Slowdown’s main-stage room. That, along with the removal of the old ceiling, will completely change the venue’s acoustics.

The plan is to have the entire project completed by Jan. 22, when the bar reopens with a free, all-locals show featuring Little Brazil, Little Black Stereo, Ground Tyrants and Kyle Harvey. The following night, afro-beat rockers NOMO returns with Satchel Grande.

It’s a hugely ambitious plan. So ambitious that I’m afraid they’ll be wheeling Johnson out on a stretcher when it’s all done. But in the end, he and Leibowitz will have the music club that they’ve always dreamed of. The renovation of The Waiting Room represents a substantial investment not only in the local music scene but in Benson, helping galvanize the district as the Omaha music community’s “ground zero.”

In the mean time, it also means slim pickin’s in terms of shows throughout most of the month of January. In addition to The Waiting Room being closed, there aren’t that many shows booked at The Slowdown. It’s going to be a long, cold January, folks, but it’ll be worth it.

* * *

Speaking of “closings,” my only venture out on New Year’s Eve was to The Saddle Creek Bar, where a handful of local punk bands including The Upsets (see photo) took the stage for the venue’s “last waltz.” Afterward, the bar closed for good. Only the drive-thru remains open as its “going out of business” sale continues. Mike Coldewey, the guy behind The Saddle Creek Bar, is moving to Chicago in a few weeks. Who knows what will happen to the building, which holds a unique place in the history of the Omaha music scene. The property is being handled by NP Dodge, and there’s a listing online here that shows an asking price of $350,000, which includes the property, the 9,164 sq. ft. bar and drive-thru liquor store. Or you can buy the business without the real estate for $65,000.

I, for one, will miss the Saddle Creek Bar. Despite being vilified for his perceived role in the creation of Omaha’s all-ages music ordinance — and for his tell-it-like-it-is communication style — I liked Mike Coldewey and wanted to see his bar succeed. The reasons were strictly personal — a strong music venue/restaurant would have strengthened a neighborhood that has its share of crime and economic problems. And also because the bar is less than a mile from my house.

But it wasn’t to be. The biggest crowd that I ever saw at the Saddle Creek Bar was when The Good Life played there back on Dec. 21, 2006. The rest of the time I rarely saw more than a handful of people in the club, as Coldewey couldn’t get the bigger-drawing local bands to play there either because of his reputation or the reputation of the venue’s sound system.

I still believe that the bar could be a success due to its location and its size. I’ve talked to a number of touring bands who said the SCB sort of reminded them of The Bottleneck in Lawrence, and I can see that. My fear is that the property will be sold, the venue will be demolished and storage units or some other abomination will be constructed there. And that will be the end of it.

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