Barleycorn's is new again
In the middle of March, John Barleycorn's Bar and Grill, 608 E. Douglas, shut down. The ownership changed and remodeling began. This weekend sees Barleycorn's — the new, official, shorter (but still with an apostrophe!) name — reopen, modified to be even better at what the venerable Old Town bar was known for: live music.
It will reopen tonight, Thursday, May 28, with The Haymakers and Comfort Revue. Friday night will bring the onslaught of official Riverfest afterparties, starting with Ophil with The Tits and Joshua Powell. Holy Ghost Tent Revival will play Saturday. Mountain Deer Revival with Adam Capps and The Dirtroad Drifters are to fill the house on Sunday. All of these shows so far start at 10 and are $5 in advance or with a Riverfest button, or $15 at the door without a button.
On Monday and Tuesday, catch your breath, because Wednesday picks back up with Cracker. This show, which also starts at 10, is $20 in advance or with a button at the door, or $30 at the door without a button.
Next Thursday, June 4, will be a free show "The Extraordinaires DJ Set with DJ Carbon" that starts at 10.
Another large, $20/$30 show comes on Friday, June 5, with the Monophonics and supporting acts Carrie Nation & The Speakeasy, Big Red Horse, The Souveneers and The Travel Guide. That show will start at 8.
The new bar has three owners — Adam Hartke, Brian Cunningham and Alex Thomas.
"We all have our specialties," Thomas said. Hartke — who works with the Riverfest and was a manager at the Orpheum — has background in booking and working with national music agents. Cunningham is an expert at building out spaces and is very involved is supporting arts and music. Thomas — who also owns Kirby's Beer Store, 3227 E. 17th, and Lucky's Everyday, 1217 E. Douglas — has bar operation experience and booking expertise. "But truly, we've collaborated since we purchased the biz in March," Thomas said.
Curt Melzer, who opened John Barleycorn's in 1999, said that he sought out Thomas to buy the bar when he decided to sell it. For Melzer, who has been a full-time high school teacher most of the time he has owned the bar and continues to own Vagabond, 614 W. Douglas, running a live music venue was more time consuming than he wanted to do at this point in his life. "[I've had] a lot of good times in that bar," he said. "But, I am older now and prefer being in bed by 10. Staying up on what is hip is a young man's game."
The new owners have dug deep into the building to showcase the better parts of its age.
"We've got 100-year-old pews with our original 80-year-old bar top," Thomas said as he was watching a fresh coat of paint go on the trimwork on a Sunday afternoon.
The bar has had two layers of formica removed, taking it back down to its basic wood; the walls have had much of the plaster removed, exposing it back to brick; even the floor has had its tiles removed and the concrete laid bare and resealed.
The relatively recently built stage will remain as a centerpiece of the establishment.
At the same time, the sign out front has been replaced with a glowing marquee, the bathrooms have been gutted and completely redone, the plumbing for the bar has been updated and loads of energy has been going into improving the acoustics of the rectangular, brick building. Sound dampening material abounds, including large curtains in the front and the back.
Thomas said that even the bar's seating has been designed with an eye for live music. The walls will be lined with pews salvaged from an old, far-off church, while all the other furniture will be mobile enough to be stored off-site for the really big-crowd shows.
Eventually, Thomas said, the bar is going to re-vamp and re-open its kitchen, most likely to garner a lunch crowd. The group hasn't figured out the exact timeline for the kitchen, though. Perhaps before the end of the year. "We will approach very cautiously," Thomas said.