Subterranean spaces can be creepy or cool. Crowbar, which officially opens Friday, Aug. 28 in the former Grainey's Basement, is definitely the latter. With its new name, new look and new philosophy, Crowbar is poised to top the list of cool below-ground clubs.
Sitting in the low-ceilinged basement office beneath a wall papered in Frank Sinatra album covers, Tom Grainey's/Crowbar owner Jason Kovac knew he wanted to update the space and give it an identity separate from its historic upstairs neighbor. He just wasn't quite sure what he wanted it to be.
"People who know me know I'm an old punk rock, skateboard kid," Kovac said. "I've been listening to punk for 30 years."
Kovac, who also owns Whiskey Bar, Silly Birch and The Lift, is a savvy businessman and an adventurer who is open to new experiences. Hearing he went to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., in March of this year wouldn't surprise those who know him. What happened to the old punk rock kid at Coachella, however, might.
"Our tagline [for Crowbar] is 'It's not what you know, it's what you don't know,'" Kovac said. "At Coachella, I was one of 150,000 people standing there to watch AC/DC and to watch Bad Religion, but it was the thing I didn't know that blew me away. It's EDM, and the energy behind it is fucking amazing."
It was an "ah-hah moment" for Kovac and he knew he wanted the "bomb shelter" to become a "true nightclub," a place with superb cocktails, a "dark, beautiful, warm" setting and where DJs and electronic dance music were the stars. He also knew he couldn't do it alone, so he brought in Chris Perry, manager of Silly Birch/Tom Grainey's/Crowbar; and Mark Allen, the bar manager at Whiskey Bar and now Crowbar's mixologist. Kovac also turned to Eric Harris, talent buyer for Grainey's/ Crowbar and founder of electronic music label Knowledge Records.
When Kovac told Harris about his experience at Coachella and his idea for Crowbar, Harris had an ah-hah moment of his own.
"Lo and behold, it was the same idea I wanted to do," he said, explaining how after 20 years being involved in EDM scenes throughout the West, he was dying to see a place in Boise dedicated to electronic music. But not just any electronic music.
Crowbar club goers won't be dancing to Janet Jackson mixed with something. What they will hear is underground house, deep house, techno, tech house, trance and a whole slew of EDM genres from 10 house DJs and a roster of world-class artists like Butane (Aug. 28), Ben Annand (Aug. 29) Underground Beats (Aug. 30), AFK (Sept. 3), Aaron Jackson (Sept. 4) and Donald Glaude (Sept. 5).
Those names may be unfamiliar but "what you don't know" has become a mantra and guide to Crowbar's identity. From upscale custom-made booths (including one big enough for a Lakers' shooting guard to stretch out in), to brushed steel tables, to European-style taps, to strips of LED lighting throughout the bar that will change depending on the kind of music being played—even to the cocktails, it's all about creating a space with a specific purpose.
"We'll focus on the music," Perry said, "and we'll have a drink menu that complements it."
Perry said the craft cocktails, which will be set at $7-$8, will create the connection for people who go to Crowbar to dance and those who simply want to sit in a comfortable booth, enjoy a beverage and let the music wash over them. It could have been a difficult bridge to build, but Allen was up to the challenge.
"With the drink menu, if people are going to be dancing and be active, it has to be refreshing," he said. "We'll use fresh juices and fresh products so you get a quality drink. We'll have nice glassware, we'll focus on the ice ... and a lot of the cocktail menu is built around it being a taller-sized beverage drink so you don't have to come off the dance floor to get a refill."
Kovac said whether its EDM fans filling the dance floor or people who know little or nothing about EDM, he wants people to walk down Crowbar's concrete stairway and step into a transformative experience.
"I want everyone to have an ah-hah moment," he said.