All revved up

The Garage at Biltmore, a spanking new live-music venue, plans to open on Saturday, Sept. 29, with a performance by national touring act Larry Keel and Natural Bridge. Local boys Dave Desmelik and the HillBilly Cadavers will start the show.

Owner Chris Hart, 36, has spent the past year working to get the venue ready to rock.

Previously home to a welding shop, the 4,000-square-foot warehouse on Fairview Road is being transformed into a still rough, but spacious, music venue. The Garage will contain a professional-sized stage, a bar with seating, and the all-important restrooms. The occupancy limit will be 320, so The Garage will host a smaller crowd than many other local live music spots.

Hart hasn’t yet set up music acts to follow in Keel’s alt-bluegrass footsteps, as construction is still underway at The Garage and the city of Asheville has yet to grant the venue a permanent certificate of occupancy. The city inspection will happen on Sept. 27, and, Hart predicts, “Then we should be good to go.”

Chris Rogers, architect with Glazer Architecture, is consulting with Hart on code compliance, and says, “We’re trying our best to help him keep things moving.”

Another new music venue, the Rocket Club, hopes to open its doors for business in three or four weeks. Initially scheduled to open a year ago in West Asheville, the Rocket Club failed to pass inspection with the city. According to co-owner Kevin Nessle, the space has been under construction for the past eight months, and he hopes to receive the certificate of occupancy soon.

The Rocket Club, on Haywood Road, will be a 450-seat venue, a bit smaller than The Grey Eagle, whose occupancy limit is 550 (standing-room only). The Orange Peel continues to top the local music venues size-wise with a standing capacity of 942.

In hopes that the Garage will pass inspection, Hart has booked a few dates in October for local nonprofit fundraisers, including the Canary Coalition. He touts the venue as being community-friendly. 

“I really want to make this a community-oriented space,” Hart offers. “I want this venue to be open and available to all different parts of the community.”

Hart also wants to showcase Asheville’s local musical talent. As president of Tribe Management, a local-music booking agency, Hart has booked the music acts at French Broad Brewery for the past year. The Brewery shares a building with the Garage.

“There are a lot of people trying to get their act out there,” Hart says. “As a booking agent with a music venue, I’ll have the leverage to help.”

Hart moved to the area two years ago from Fort Lauderdale, where he worked as an intelligence analyst for SeaSecure, a maritime-security business. Before that, he worked in bars and restaurants in various cities around the country.

“I’ve got lots of experience in the bar business, but this is the first time I’m delving this deeply into the music business,” he explains.

Hart notes that the Garage will be the only live music venue on the southeast side of town. Because of that, he doesn’t think he’ll be in direct competition with other live-music hotspots such as the Grey Eagle, the Orange Peel and Stella Blue.

Hart says he’s already received lots of interest in the Garage from the local community. In fact, when Nate Breeding, owner of GQC Demolition and Debris and an Oakley resident, discovered that Hart’s stage wasn’t up to code, Breeding decided to redesign and rebuild it for free.

“I just wanted to help,” Breeding says. “I’m a small business, and I know how hard it is to get a small business started. I thought I’d take that off Chris’ plate.”

Although Breeding admits that he hadn’t built a professional stage before, he says: “Basically, it’s a deck, isn’t it? But now it’s a deck with code for live load.”

French Broad beers on tap will be the only alcoholic beverages available at the Garage. Hart says he doesn’t want to deal with a liquor license or food, and he plans to keep the venue “real simple—just good beer and good music.”

— Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer based in Asheville.

who: Larry Keel & Natural Bridge w/Dave Desmelik & The HillBilly Cadavers; what: The grand opening performance at The Garage; where: The Garage at Biltmore (101 Fairview Rd. Suite B); when: Saturday, Sept. 29 (10 p.m. $15. www.thegarageatbiltmore.com or 505-2663)

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One thought on “All revved up

  1. Dionysis

    This could be really good news. There needs to be additional venues than currently exist. The Orange Peel hoses patrons to the max; a couple of smaller venues such those described will likely be more comfortable surroundings for some types of acts. Many cities I am familiar with have similar places which accomodate 300-400, and are able to consistently bring in top flight musicians (a few years ago I saw Jeff Beck at a similar size club in Norfolk, VA, as well as acts like John Hiatt, BoDeans, Kinks and so many others).
    I hope they are both successes.

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