According to a Times-Dispatch story, a developer wants to turn the historic Hippodrome Theater in Jackson Ward into a blues club of sorts.
Don’t plan on going to a live blues concert just yet. First, there are already two new venues within a mile – Toad’s Place and the National. Both are also historical restoration projects, and both are part larger music venue groups that bring certain economies of scale.
Can the market support another venue?
It might make sense for the Walker Row Partners, the developer, to wait 10 years and see if the two new venues are doing before adding another live music business. (You can read about the venue business in Richmond here.) A blues-only club might be too narrow a niche. Nor is the market for blues music really known here. And the other venues book blues musicians already. Taj Mahal will be at Toad’s Place on June 13th. You can get any more bluesy than Taj Mahal.
However, The Hippodrome has one advantage over Toad’s Place and The National: Ronald Stallings already owns the building, which means the cost of getting up and running could be less than the other two projects. City Councilman Bill Pantele asked the Council to include $600,000 in financing. Toad’s Place did not receive and funds.
On the other hand, the building’s current owner, Ronald Stalling, would have to find someone with venue experience to operate and market the new club.
The Hippodrome has been slated for restoration before, and previous deals all fell through.