Despite the COVID pandemic that has caused the closure of hundreds of bars and concert halls across the country – including Cosmic Charlie’s and the Best Friend Bar in Lexington – a new one has been born in eastern Kentucky inside of a building rich in regional history.
Opening last September, The place is a music club located inside Morehead’s historic Trail Theater building, which was built in 1937. And expansion is already underway with plans to add 50 additional seats on an outdoor patio with a fire pit. occasional live music and access to food trucks by early spring.
The business is co-owned by Damon Ballinger, a longtime area auctioneer and real estate agent who leased the building for almost 14 years, and Hannah Hansford, a former bartender at Redmon’s and Bluegrass Tavern in Lexington.
Early indications show an endorsement of both sound and space, with The Venue having “sold-out videos” for four of its first seven Saturdays of live music.
“This was by no means the perfect time to open up, but I just couldn’t bear to leave this magnificent historic building unoccupied any longer,” said Ballinger. “The community has been incredibly supportive and understood our security protocols. “
These coronavirus protocols include temperature checks and identity scans (for contact tracing) at the entrance, staff wiping all surfaces with Lysol after use, no bar counter orders, tables six apart. feet or more, masks required at all times when not seated and a reduced capacity of 60 instead of 138.
After a lull in December over the holidays and following a three-week order from Governor Andy Beshear to shut down domestic service bars and restaurants, Ballinger says business started booming in 2021.
The place has scheduled shows for every Friday and Saturday until the end of February. Weekly quiz evenings are also planned on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., preceded by a piano bar of Bedford Band‘s Kolby Swiney from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and followed from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. And a Bloody Mary bar on Sunday afternoon from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Bloody Mary’s and other cocktails, like VenueRita (with Hornitos tequila, cointreau, simple syrup, Grand Marnier and fresh lime juice) are prepared by Hansford using a mix of family recipes, knowledge gained from working days in Lexington bars and his own. personal touch. Le Venue also offers a small selection of wines and a full line of draft and bottled American lager beers. They also have a rotating selection of daily soups from Miss A’s Cheesy Potato Soup, Vegetable Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup, and soon to be Tomato Basil Soup.
Originally the Trail Theater, the building was constructed in 1937 by local businessman and entrepreneur Elisha Edward “Ed” Maggard, who moved to the town in 1903 from the nearby town of Sandy Hook. Soon after, he brought electricity to the city by helping to found the Morehead Power Company and later helping to attract Morehead State University to the city, among other accomplishments.
Conceived and designed by Maggard himself, the theater opened on December 25, 1937 with an upscale look that included 430 plush upholstered chairs and wine-colored carpeting inside what was then the city’s first commercial building with air conditioning.
While the chic seating isn’t left over, much of the original Trail Theater’s sleek mystique remains in The Venue, like the red carpet that comes out of the building’s grand front door. Once inside, the entrance to The Venue offers a historic time capsule of the building with images showcasing musical artists from its launch, flanked by images from days gone by when movies were still the venue’s biggest draw. .
“We wanted a chic look without the chic, high price of admission,” Ballinger said. “Our goal is to give the customer a top notch experience, as if they are not just another person present, but rather one of the stars of the red carpet themselves. “
Or: 109 North Wilson Avenue, Morehead
Hours: Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6.30 p.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.-6 p.m., closed Monday to Wednesday
In line: TheVenue109.com
This story was originally published 8 February 2021 12:07.