Funny business finds place in Aspen
ASPEN ” For the Edgar family, doing business in Aspen is a joke.
The owners of Texas Reds, a barbecue joint on Cooper Avenue, have overhauled their business plan and are going from sticky ribs to belly laughs. By the end of this month, the restaurant will become Aspen’s only comedy club.
The owners of the Aspen Comedy Club will remain the same as Texas Reds ” Dave and Grace Edgar, and their two sons, Dave Jr. and Derek. And they plan to keep Texas Reds going, just further down the road.
The Edgars are currently in lease negotiations for a new Texas Reds, planned to be located on Highway 82 between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. The new restaurant is expected to be open at the end of August.
In Aspen, meanwhile, the Edgars have invested a significant amount of money into the comedy endeavor, bringing in some of the biggest names on the circuit. The most expensive act will cost the Edgars $21,000 for a one-night performance, plus the costs of putting the talent up in four-star hotels, limo transportation and all the other perks the funny folks require. The Edgars are required to pay 50 percent up front of the comedians’ fee, plus the 10 percent booking fee by the agent who got them.
“We need to prove to Aspen that we are bringing in the top-of-the-line people,” Dave Edgar said. “We’re serious about this. We want to bring in the best, plus we want to see them ourselves.”
The new comedy club comes just months after HBO-sponsored U.S. Comedy Arts Festival announced it was pulling out of Aspen and heading to Santa Barbara, Calif., for the week-long festival. The Edgars also believe that with the anticipated closing of the Crystal Palace dinner theater, humorous entertainment is slowly fading away in Aspen.
“The community is already primed … You have to find something in town that people want and need,” Dave Edgar said. “We thought that this niche fills a need.”
Several months ago, the Edgars hired booking agent John Yoder, who has created a line-up through October for the Aspen Comedy Club. The opening show, scheduled for July 27, will be headlined by Greg Proops, from “Whose Line is it Anyway?”
The next week’s headliner will be John Heffron, from the “Last Comic Standing.” Other highlights will be Craig Robinson from “The Office” and David Alan Grier, scheduled to appear over Labor Day weekend.
Yoder is owner of Funny Business Agency, one the largest comedy booking agencies in the country booking more than 65 comedy clubs a week with access to over 3,000 stand-up comedians.
“He was the key to getting these guys,” Dave Edgar said. “We’re not just throwing it together; we’ve got excellent advisors and experts.”
The Edgars have partnered with the Wheeler Opera House, which will sell tickets for the shows. The Aspen Comedy Club will present the headliners in two shows on Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., charging $35 for general admission seating.
“The numbers work,” said Dave Edgar, adding that the family’s business plan mirrors the one Michael Goldberg has for Belly Up Aspen, a local music venue/nightclub in its fourth year. “He kind of opened the door that showed people do want high-quality acts.”
Texas Reds temporarily closed last weekend so the Edgars can remodel the restaurant into a comedy club atmosphere, pouring tens of thousands of dollars into a sound and lighting system and building a stage. The grand opening is scheduled for Friday, July 27.
The seating capacity is 200 people, with cocktail tables positioned so there isn’t a bad seat in the house, Dave Edgar said. The menu will be changed to offer appetizers, pasta and fish, among other items.
“At $35, you will get to sit down at a table with service,” Dave Edgar said.
The Edgars, who have been in the restaurant business for 25 years, opened Texas Reds last June. They said business was good but they wanted to set themselves apart in the Aspen entertainment scene.
“It’s like any restaurant in town; it’s hard to make the numbers work,” Dave Edgar said. “It sure will be nice to be the only one in town instead of one of 10.”
After discussing it as a family, the Edgars decided more than six months ago to take the leap into the funny business, believing the model will work for them, while at the same time giving Aspenites something to which they don’t immediate access.
The business plan goes beyond offering headline acts on the weekends. Mondays will be open-mic night, when local comedians can display their talents on stage and possibly become opening acts for headliners in the future. Tuesdays will be improv night; Wednesdays will continue Texas Reds’ traditional karaoke night and Thursday will offer regional comedians from Denver and other area towns. Sunday will feature magic and more kid-friendly comedians.
The idea came to the Edgars during the HBO Comedy Festival last year when several local comedians approached them and asked if they could use Texas Reds as a venue to perform.
“Without any advertising, they filled the place and I thought, if the local guys can fill the place, what would others do?” Dave Edgar said.
The Edgars said they have carefully planned their new business and had to wait for the right time to relocate Texas Reds farther downvalley, where they believe barbecue will popular.
“We couldn’t do this without getting Texas Reds dealt with,” Dave Edgar said, adding this week the Aspen Comedy Club will be undergoing serious remodeling. “We have to get the smoker out to build the stage.”
Carolyn Sackariason can be reached at email@example.com.
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