The Venue to Move to Caldwell

Downtown Boise all-ages rock club to relocate


The corner of Fifth Avenue and Elgin Street in Caldwell isn't much to look at: just a few dilapidated houses, cracked parking lots and the empty shell of an old dance club.

That's what made Jenean and Johann Claus think it was the perfect spot to move The Venue, the all-ages rock club that has been located at 521 Broad St. in Boise for a decade.

"Why would we think that the best place to keep a punk club is sandwiched between a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods and across the street from a law school?" Johann asked.

But finding a less developed neighborhood isn't what pushed the pair's decision to pull up stakes in downtown. Money was a big factor.

When the Clauses purchased The Venue two years ago, they had planned to expand the space to include a cafe. While the previous owners, Bob and Sharon Keck, had operated the business as something of a youth center, the Clauses wanted to make it profitable.

The pair made a business plan, talked to some banks and even tried a Kickstarter campaign to add a cafe, all while taking a bath on live shows due to limited capacity and a revenue stream dependent entirely on ticket sales. But after the couple discovered how much fire code-mandated sprinklers would cost, the concept of remaining downtown--next door to Boise Weekly--proved impossible. That's when the Clauses decided to start shopping around for a new location.

Preparations are already under way for the new venue's soft opening with the band Appleseed Cast, Friday, May 10. The Venue has Bryan Stars scheduled for its last show in the old space, Friday, May 3.

Boise Weekly Publisher Sally Freeman, who owns The Venue's Boise building, says a new tenant for the space has yet to be finalized.

"All the equipment is owned by The Venue and will be removed," said Freeman. "So there isn't really any compelling reason for it to remain a music space. But that is not to say it could not continue to be a music venue. Who knows who will be our neighbor?"

The Venue's new space came with two existing stages, a bar, a cafe area, a balcony, plenty of parking and, perhaps best of all, a liquor license--something many clubs spend thousands of dollars to acquire.

"[W]hen we can make $3,000 in bar sales, we make the guarantees to bring in bigger acts," said Johann.

He said punk bands like NOFX and Black Flag have wanted to play The Venue, but passed because its capacity wasn't sufficient for the owners to recoup the bands' guarantees. Those bands skipped Boise altogether.

The Venue has applied for a multi-purpose arena endorsement for its liquor license, which will allow all-ages ticket holders and alcohol sales--as long as they are properly segregated.

"The main thing is to have a security plan to ensure that young adults aren't drinking and older adults aren't walking out of the area holding drinks," said Johann.

Between the nearly doubled capacity at its new location, and the potential for bar and cafe sales, the Clauses said this move will allow them to bring in the big-name punk acts they've always wanted to host.

It all looks good on paper. But a lot of the challenge is managing perception.

"I was more scared to announce we were moving than anything else," said Jenean.

Online reaction to the announcement was swift, and in some cases, fierce.

"I live in NW Boise and likely won't ever drive to Caldwell unless it's an incredible show," Brian Rich wrote as part of a Facebook comment thread announcing the move.

Nicholas James McGarvey was more concise: "RIP venue," he wrote.

But by and large, a majority of the Facebook thread's 90-plus comments were in favor of the move.

"This means The Venue will be right down the road from my house. Us 2C'ers have waited a long, long time for something like this," wrote Andrew Hollingsworth.

"We had this suspicion that for every person that said, 'Damn you for leaving Boise,' we'd have another that would say, 'Thanks for coming to Caldwell,'" Johann said.

But that doesn't mean he thinks the move is without consequences.

"I am sensitive to the critique that we're leaving the Boise youth," Johann said. "But I think in retrospect, when you look at the numbers ... the metro area is 600,000--200,000 of which live in Boise. Everyone else lives west of Eagle Road. To say we're leaving the youth is ethnocentric."

Johann also countered the assertion that people won't drive to Caldwell.

"Where is the Idaho Center?" Johann asked. "People don't go there because they love corn fields. They go there because that's where Carrie Underwood is playing. That said, we're not bringing in Carrie Underwood."

The Clauses have been tracking online ticket sales, which show that The Venue is more of a destination, with people driving from Ontario, Ore. and Pocatello to see bands.

A few blocks away from The Venue's new space, a perfect focus group was forming under the Caldwell gazebo. Caldwell bands Sock Children, Naked Apes and Deaf Kid were playing a free show with Bad Weather California.

Reaction to The Venue's move among attendees was mixed.

"I just don't know if there's enough of a scene here," said Scott Pemble, a Caldwell resident who puts on house shows. "Eighty to 90 percent of people that were coming to shows at my place were driving out from Boise."

Josie Braun, one of the gazebo concert organizers, said that having grown up in Caldwell, she would definitely have attended shows at a space like The Venue.

The club will be open when it hosts bands, with the cafe opening several hours beforehand to serve pub fare. They say the cafe could also be used for small acoustic or open mic events.

The Clauses also want to expand The Venue's appeal by courting Caldwell's growing Latino population. Claus said he's received calls from promoters in Seattle looking to do weekly Miami beat nights with national acts.

"The angry white male thing is a diminishing market," Claus said. "I think we have this grand coalition to bring in the angry white males and the Latinos, and that will be sustainable."