A little more than two years after first posting on extensive remodeling plans scheduled for the Sportsmens Tavern on Amherst Street, work is well underway to turn this Americana music club into a 325 seat multi-level music destination. I stopped in last night to check out the open mic hosted by Writers, Artists and Musicians (WAM), which turned out to be an awe-inspiring experience. Talk about blowing the roof off a joint – literally there was no first floor ceiling… instead there was a vaulted wood beam canopy with a multi-tiered mezzanine where music fans can sit in style while listening to their favorite acts.
The first floor seating is cozy and intimate, featuring a stage by the front door, massive black curtains (backdrop for the stage), a long bar extending the length of the room and a kitchen window in the back with a neon sigh that reads, “Eat Here”. Much of the work is still underway, but somehow owner Dwane Hall has managed to keep the doors open while rehabbing the interior. Next up, a massive staircase is being built and softening touches are being added… although I hope that the exposed barn-style rustic walls and roof will remain as they are. Many of the wood features, such as the 2nd floor wood bar were built with the original flooring that was ripped out. The comfy swivel chairs that will soon be bolted into the floor (on the mezzanine) came from a jury room – talk about judging the performances. Other than the chairs, there are no other signs of creature comforts – the tavern is being rebuilt with one thing in mind… music.
I have heard, mainly from musicians, that The Sportsmens Tavern would never be the same. A few that I talked to told me that they felt that the gritty, tight-knit nature of the music club might be lost. If anything, The Sportsmens Tavern has transformed into a roadhouse music joint where the tunes project out into an expansive, neon lit arena setting. The transfixed audience members are as much of a fixture as the back bar papered with handbills. Catching a show at this club is an awesome experience… and it’s only going to get better as additional remodeling phases get underway. If I were to change anything, I would scrap the black curtains, or at least draw them open in order to expose the band and the audience to the street, and vice versa. The curtains are too dramatic and create a disconnect with what should be a cool urban setting.
Amherst Street has scored a music destination unlike any other in the city. Click on the website (below) and check out the upcoming music schedule. You must see a show here… it’s a remarkable experience.