*** Correction below
Highland Park is finally getting the proper live music venue the neighborhood deserves.
The Hi Hat, a 300-capacity club at 5043 York Blvd., is set to debut later this month in a 4,500-square-foot space formerly occupied by a billiards hall, bringing live music to a neighborhood with a teeming population of artists, five record stores and a cadre of cool bars and eateries.
It’s the venture of Dustin Lancaster, Ross Stephenson and Michael Blackman, partners in the Hermosillo and the Highland Park Brewery. In fact, the Hi Hat derives its moniker from the former name of the Hermosillo, which opened in the summer of 2012, located a block away.
“This will be a little different in that we’re a bar-and-grill-meets-music-venue,” Stephenson says. “We want to have a more hangout-able environment than a normal music venue.”
Adds Blackman: “We want a room that feels super homey but where music is still the main event.”
The deep room is subtly divided into two parts. The kitchen is located at the south end, near the entrance, where two pool tables greet visitors. A long bar — made of wood re-purposed from a basketball court — runs along the east wall for about a third of the room. A partition separates the billiards area from the performance space, although it doesn’t obstruct views. And the stage, with a Mastermind sound system, faces east, or the short way across the room. A small VIP area is situated in the northeast corner.
Stephenson says the partners decided against having a simple shotgun-style venue layout, and also opted to let the room’s rustic brick suffice as the main design element. Says Blackman: “It just feels more authentic if you don’t plaster the walls with every little thing you’ve found at swap meets.”
The kitchen will serve bar fare: burgers, chicken, potato tacos, corn dogs and fries. The bar will be beer-and-wine only, and the venue will be doing all-ages shows.
The Hi Hat has hired Britt Witt as talent buyer. Witt formerly worked at DoLA (located in the Spaceland Presents offices) and the Bootleg Theater in content/marketing capacities.*** Her philosophy, she says, is to “nurture the local artists and lure the touring bands.”
The venue’s calendar has not yet been posted. Rather than debut with a big, splashy show, though, Stephenson says the Hi Hat will probably just ease into operation. “We want to let it happen organically and fit into the neighborhood,” he says.
Photos by Michelle Shiers