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Strange Beginnings

It's been a rough time for Boise nightlife guru Ted Challenger, but Strangelove night club represents a new chapter


Not long ago, Ted Challenger wondered what else the universe could throw at him. Every one of his businesses around Boise had suffered some sort of calamity that caused their closure, albeit temporarily.

Challenger previously owned Tailgate, a sports bar near Ann Morrison Park. After deciding he didn't want to be in the restaurant business, he decided to sell it, but shortly after making that decision, the roof collapsed on the restaurant. Like the roof, the sale fell through, too.

Then, Challenger got a call at 6 a.m: His other bar, Amsterdam Lounge, was on fire. While the damage was minimal, it still prompted its closure. Challenger's most well-known club, formerly known as China Blue, was already getting some renovations for the HVAC system, but as as crews installed steel reinforcements on the old building, they sheared a sprinkler pipe, dumping water into the club and causing the ceiling of the bar below China Blue, Dirty Little Roddy's, another Challenger bar, to have some problems of its own.

"They were putting in a steel bracing on the building and hit a sprinkler pipe," Challenger said. "So 4,000 gallons of water, because no one knew how to turn it off, blew out the ceiling on Roddy's. It took the whole ceiling, just landed on the bar top at Roddy's."

It was, indeed, a very bad year for Challenger, but he credits the team around him, his family and his friends for helping him get through what would have sunk many businessmen.

"I was just like 'oh my god, how is this happening,'" he said.

Challenger learned some important lessons about insurance, and has adjusted his policies accordingly.

Most of all, it's a chance at a new beginning. Much like a forest fire helps rejuvenate a forest, he saw an opportunity to grow. Challenger wanted things to change—especially at his former bar, China Blue, an embattled night club with a reputation for things getting out of hand. Even Challenger said it was a "d*****bag club."

In that same space, Strangelove will open Friday, Aug. 2. It's a club focused on love, music and dancing, he said.

"Strangelove came to me because the one thing that's cool about this world is dance, love and music know no borders," he said. "It's the one thing that everyone can pretty much relate to."

Challenger said the issues China Blue faced were the product of bad actors who liked to fight and posture, they used his club as a venue. China Blue even had a fatality after a man was stabbed near the dance floor in 2017. The attacker was handed a sentence of 25 years to life last year.

"I didn't like the violence, I hated the violence of the hip hop club. I wanted to build a club that's about love," he said. "Not the bros and the fighters."

To fix that, Challenger has been building what he calls an "86 list." When someone enters one of his bars, a phone app scans their IDs and records it into a database. If someone is caught fighting or rabble-rousing in general, their information is added to a list. Next time a doorman scans one of their IDs, it will notify the bouncer that the patron is banned from all of Challenger's clubs.

"Boise wasn't ready for a club this size four years ago, but the city has grown so much," he said.

Challenger saw a need for a dance club, and hopes Strangelove will offer different experience than the former hip hop club. To do that, the music will be mostly mainstream radio hits. He has also eliminated the VIP section in favor of an electronic dance music lounge. People can still get the VIP experience by buying bottle service, which will get them a booth and a bottle of their choosing.

Some things about China Blue will stay, like a full-service bar in the women's restroom, which does surprisingly well. Challenger said it turns about $1,500 a night.

Overall, the attitude and audience for Strangelove will be much different, and Challenger thinks Boise is ready for a night club of its caliber.

"It's been a massive, massive project," he said.