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Music venue plans X Games opening

Stewart Oksenhorn
Construction crews work on Belly Up, the new nightclub at the former Double Diamond site, on Monday. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.
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Since Michael Goldberg announced his intention to open a nightclub in the old Double Diamond space, the Aspen businessman has become a magnet for people’s ideas.”I get stopped every day on the street by people with ideas,” said Goldberg who, with his partner, fellow Aspenite David Gitlitz, signed a lease on the below-ground property at 450 S. Galena on Dec. 10. “And I’m surprised how many good ideas there are.”But amid all the input and advice, Goldberg is keeping his eye focused on two things: construction and music.

The space, which housed the Double Diamond from 1992 until its closing in September 2003, is expected to be demolished by day’s end. Tomorrow, the renovation phase of the new Belly Up – named after a sister club in Solana Beach, Calif., owned by Goldberg’s brother, Steve – begins. The target is to get the club completed in time for the X Games, set for the final weekend of January.”What we’re focusing on now, first and foremost, is to get the club done when we say we’ll get it done,” Goldberg said. “We want it finished in time for X Games so that sponsors can use it for their musical acts.”And while Goldberg ponders how exactly to make use of the Belly Up’s full kitchen, firms up details for the use of the club by the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, and contemplates installing a hi-tech video projection system and flat-screen televisions, he is maintaining a focus on the club’s primary use – as a live music venue.”It’s first and foremost a music club,” he said. “It’s going to center around live music.”

Belly Up has hired a full-time booking agent, Steve Weiss, who had been booking three venues in the Minneapolis area.That focus on music led to the naming of the club. The original Belly Up, outside San Diego, has, over its 30-year history, built a reputation as one of the finest midsize music clubs in the country. The latest schedule for the club, which has been owned by Steve Goldberg for two years, includes appearances by Los Lobos, Ozomatli, Nellie McKay, X and Super Diamond.”We sat around one night during the NHL Classic in Aspen and discussed concept and what it should be called,” said Goldberg, a 16-year Aspen resident who owns two Florida-based airline businesses. “And the concept, we realized, was very similar to what my brother did there.”

The kitchen will serve a bar menu during concerts and will be used for private functions at the space. Goldberg has reached an agreement with the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival to have Belly Up serve as a venue for stand-up acts. He is also considering using the club for après-ski presentations. But with an emphasis on live music, Belly Up should continue in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Double Diamond, and earlier clubs that have filled the space, like the Paradise.In looks, however, Belly Up will be something new. “We didn’t leave anything,” said Goldberg, a serious music fan whose hobbies include photographing concerts. The layout of the club, including the location of the stage, will be familiar. But the stage will be bigger and higher, the dance floor will be bigger, the bar and bathrooms will be new, and the floors will be all wood.With construction occupying his mind for the next month, a hoped-for opening in late January, and the Comedy Festival coming in early February, Belly Up has not lined up its concert schedule yet.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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