By Matt Wickstrom, Smiley Pete Publishing
LEXINGTON, Ky. — After a contentious exit from its former location and a series of delays obtaining proper licensing to open anew, local music venue Cosmic Charlie’s 3.0 is ready for liftoff. Following a soft opening last weekend, the venue will hold a grand opening at its new NoLi-area digs this weekend, with the bands Great Lake Swimmers and Native Harrow performing Fri., Feb. 22 and Black Lips, Shawnthony Calypso and Johnny Conqueroo performing Sat., Feb. 23.
Originally opening in 2009 in University Plaza next to Lynagh’s Irish Pub, the venue relocated to National Avenue in the Warehouse Block in the fall of 2016. After encountering a string of high-profile noise complaints from residential neighbors at the National Avenue location, co-owners Mark Evans and John Tresaloni eventually made the decision to relocate the club once more, shuttering the warehouse location last June. According to Tresaloni, while the owners hoped Cosmic Charlie’s 3.0 would be up and running by October 2018, a series of delays in getting the inspections and signatures needed for the business and liquor licenses hampered those expectations, pushing the opening into 2019.
Housed in a building that formerly served as a bus-wash station at 105 W. Loudon Ave., the venue is the first piece to open in a sprawling, multi-use concept headed by developer Chad Needham. Additional future plans for the campus include the development of a large indoor urban market dubbed GreyLine Station, which will be located in a former Greyhound bus station next to the venue. The mixed-use concept will include a variety of booths for small local vendors, along with traditional storefronts, office space, dining options and private wedding and event space called Clerestory owned by Shelley Fortune, all under the same roof in a historic 100,000-plus-square-foot building that was originally built in the 1920s and most recently owned by LexTran. The market will be modeled after similar public spaces in cities throughout the country, with Needham expecting some of the first businesses and storefronts to begin opening by early 2020.
While it will share a large parking lot with GreyLine Station, Cosmic Charlie’s is located in a standalone building that’s more spacious than its predecessor at nearly 4,000 square feet, nearly 2,000 of which includes the main dance floor. The new location features a shotgun-style layout, with the bar running along the right side of the building as one approaches the stage. High ceilings will provide reverberating acoustics, while the slightly inclined floor – concert attendees standing in the back of the room will be six inches higher than those in the front – will provide prime viewing spots for shows even far back from the stage. Thanks to the building’s concrete foundation and shell, acoustics aren’t expected to be an issue from the outside, ensuring the problems that plagued its last location won’t strike again.
“This building is made from poured concrete and in more of an industrial area than its predecessor, so noise issues should not be a worry this time around,” said Needham.
With a large-scale exterior mural by artist Patch Whisky depicting a brightly colored sea monster, the building is easy to spot from the outside. Two space-themed interior murals by local artist collaborative Square Pegs greet patrons on the interior.
Seeing these details come together over the past several weeks has been a source of excitement and relief for the venue owners and employees. Tresaloni said that while he realizes the delay has been frustrating for local music fans and bands scheduled to play at the venue in recent months, he’s been encouraged by the number of people who have remained supportive and excited about the venue’s reopening.
“All summer and fall, people were asking me when we’d open back up,” said Tresaloni. “That’s the thing you worry about when you close a business – are people going to come back?”
Following a packed house at the venue’s soft opening and a roster of upcoming events that include performances from popular acts ranging from metal to jam bands to Americana, the outlook looks promising.