What do restaurants, record stores and theaters all have in common?
In the past few years, the Shoals has seen businesses such as these doubling as music venues on the side.
Eli Flippen, owner of Pegasus Records in Florence, said he thinks being attached to an already existing venue may be the only way for a music venue to thrive in the area.
“There have been so many people who have tried doing it over the years,” said Flippen, who has owned the record store since 2007. “I think so many people go into that not realizing how much overhead there is going into a situation like that.”
Flippen listed things such as leasing a building, paying for utilities, insurance on the building, licensing and owning a sound system as some of the costs that go into running a music venue.
Keeping people coming to shows after the newness of your venue wears off also is a challenge, Flippen said.
“You get one open and people in this area are really big on when a new place opens up, going out and saying ‘oh that’s a cool place,’ ” he said. “But if you do a show there every weekend, after a while it kind of wears off and people are ‘meh I’m not going to go to a show there if I can catch one next weekend.’ Your crowd starts hurting, and I saw that happen to a lot of different places around here.”
In other situations, such as Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken in Muscle Shoals, doubling as a music venue helps bring people into the restaurant.
Wade Baker, owner of Champy’s, said they opened with the full intention of being a restaurant first and focusing on food.
“However, with the music heritage in the area, we felt like we just couldn’t leave it out,” Baker said. “We’ve got a real cool blues-y place over here and so while we were building it, we decided to build a small stage on our patio and have live music from time to time. It has worked out well for us.”
Using that music heritage to bring people into the restaurant was an important factor in deciding to build the stage and promote live music.
“While they’re here listening to their favorite band, they’ll eat, drink and have a good time,” Baker said.
The second week Champy’s was open coincided with the 2012 W.C. Handy Music Festival, which helped them with publicity in opening a new restaurant.
“It was a crazy second week, we had live music every night,” Baker said. “It was really neat and it got a lot of people in here. It gave us a much better kick off and grand opening than we thought we would have.”
J. Scott Long, the owner of the end., a theater in Florence, said when he took over the space where the end. is located, they primarily did plays and performances.
Long said they decided to start having live music when a personnel change in their human resources department made it difficult to stage plays. He added that it takes a lot of people to put on a play, but only about four people to book a band.
“When things reverse themselves a little bit, the plays will come back,” Long said, but added they still will keep the live music and other things such as poetry readings and housing nonprofit groups.
The birth of the end. as a music venue began when a group of bands approached long about doing a benefit concert for the Phil Campbell Rescue Squad.
“That raised quite a bit of money for them, and that sparked the interest of other bands to play at the theater,” Long said. “At this point, it’s about 50 percent of the bands come to us because they want to play in that space.”
At Pegasus, having bands they play hit it big later, can sometimes boost crowds and draw people in.
“When the Civil Wars first started recording the viral videos that hit it big were recorded here,” Flippen said. “And then the Alabama Shakes they did the Handy Fest performance and they were back later for the ‘Live From the Shoals’ performance. But a lot of people have the false realization that playing here might do something for their career.”
Flippen added that using available spaces is a good thing for the community.
“I think the more we have of that, the more options it gives the people and makes it more easily accessible to the public,” Flippen said. “Maybe more people will get out and do stuff.”
Bobby Bozeman can be reached at 256-740-5722 or bobby.bozeman@TimesDaily.com.