Dazzle Jazz will leave its current home in downtown’s historic Baur’s Building for a renovated space at the city-owned Denver Performing Arts Complex.
The new location, about two blocks northwest of Baur’s, will save the iconic club thousands of dollars per day and set up the 25-year-old business for success over the next decade, co-owner Matt Ruff said.
“Downtown is not returning the way we hoped it would, and (Baur’s) just doesn’t work anymore,” he said of Dazzle’s current spot, on the ground floor of 1512 Curtis St.. “A lot of patrons and artists have also told us they miss the feel of the old, black-box Dazzle (in Capitol Hill), and it’s been challenging at Baur’s having a bar right in the performance space.”
Dazzle plans to take over the vacant storefront formerly occupied by Onyx nightclub, at 1080 14th St.. Its lease at Baur’s expired in the spring, prompting a month-to-month deal. Ruff will begin filling in the calendar for the new space as early as October with a dozen-plus shows each week, and expects the club to be fully open by winter.
Leading with a circular, understated logo from by Denver’s ArtHouse Design, the new Dazzle will feature architecture by Perkins+Will and be built by Loomis Improvements Inc. The layout is designed in some ways to mimic the two-room format of its longtime Capitol Hill location, with the stage on the right side (when walking in from the street) and a 10-seat bar and lounge area on the left, according to architectural renderings.
Floor plans call for seating that wraps around the intimate stage on three sides. Seating along the back, east-facing wall in the music room will be slightly elevated for better sightlines. A new sign hanging from the corner of 14th and Arapahoe streets, where thousands of pedestrians pass nightly during other big cultural events at the complex, will beckon potential visitors.
The arrangement with the city, which first invited Dazzle to come aboard, will allow the jazz club’s owners to take advantage of Denver Arts & Venues’ marketing and promotions resources and, eventually, co-present shows at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and other prestigious spaces. The club will continue to be privately owned.
“Dazzle’s record of success is a terrific complement to programming at the Arts Complex,” said Ginger White, executive director of Denver Arts & Venues, which owns and operates the complex, in a statement. “We’re all excited about the unique twist Dazzle can provide to our neighborhood’s cultural life.”
That neighborhood is essentially the Times Square of Denver, featuring a deliberately branded Theatre District along 14th Street, and crowd-pleasing restaurants and hotels for the Colorado Convention Center, which sits across the street to the south.
Dazzle has long been the leader in Denver’s live-jazz scene, drawing top touring and local talent to its thoughtfully curated stages, and working in conjunction with Denver’s acclaimed KUVO 89.3 FM radio station. That’s likely the “success” Arts & Venues director White was referring to, because it sure wasn’t the business side.
“We thought 2020 was the year that Dazzle was finally going to make money,” Ruff said with a laugh. “That didn’t happen, and coming out of the pandemic we find ourselves spending about $400 per hour, overall, to keep our Baur’s space running.”
Ruff declined to say how much Dazzle paid for its Baur’s lease, but did say the club will downsize significantly in its move, shedding most of its 15,000 square feet — about one-third of which is a kitchen — for the new, 8,500-square-foot space. Capacity will stay the same, with about 150 people for a sold-out show.
“Baur’s feels very cavernous and this will be more intimate,” Ruff said. “Although for the first time, we’ll have a completely unobstructed view of the stage, which is amazing.”
Dazzle had already set up a loose partnership with the city, having previously booked artists at the arts complex’s free summer music series, at the Galleria, and other city events. The new lease, which Ruff described as costing “about a third of our current one,” runs for nine years with the city.
Losing months of revenue due to COVID-prompted shutdowns was devastating to Dazzle, as with so many other music venues, especially as the jazz club was preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Loans and community support have been lifesavers, co-owner Donald Rossa told The Denver Post earlier this year. But it was clear something needed to change.
“In a weird way, it’s been good,” Rossa said. “It’s taught us to do what we do best, and push all that other stuff to the side.”
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