Last week, it looked like the complicated and murky history of the Valarium had been passed onto its successor, the Blackstock Exchange and Auditorium. The two new clubs, which opened in March in the buildings near the intersection of Interstates 40 and 275 formerly occupied by the Valarium and Cider House, were locked down on Tuesday, Aug. 15, by the Tennessee Department of Revenue for nonpayment of taxes, according to WATE and the News Sentinel.
But, after an optimistic statement on Facebook that night, the Blackstock was back open the following day, and seems to be operating as usual.
“We opened the following day, and had a great weekend,” manager Jay Harris says. “Now we are just focused on all the fall shows we are getting ready to announce.”
The demise of the Valarium in late 2012 was clouded by owner Gary Mitchell’s assertion that new state alcohol-sales regulations had forced his club to serve more food and stay open more often, even on nights when shows or dance nights weren’t scheduled. But there weren’t any such new regulations; in fact, the most recent amendments to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s rules, in 2010, did the exact opposite of what Mitchell claimed—they allowed nightclubs and bars to sell less food, and to be open fewer nights a week.
Mitchell, who at one point threatened to sue over the matter, never answered questions about the discrepancy. But a few months before his clubs closed, he had indicated that the Valarium was facing significant financial pressure; he was planning a new outdoor venue in the parking lot adjacent to the club that he hoped would reverse the club’s economic situation.
“Right after we opened, the economy got so bad that it wasn’t viable,” he said in April 2012. “Now we’re operating on a wing and prayer, hoping that the economy will be viable again.”
Harris and Blackstock owner Daniel Leal haven’t responded directly to the tax citation, but Harris suggested last week that the lock-down was related to the building’s previous ownership.
“We’re having to clean up that mess that was left here,” he says. “But it is taken care of. We’re back in the building and the doors are open and everything’s good. Like I said, it’s just another speed bump in the road to getting things moving, and everything’s looking good now.”
A spokesman for the Department of Revenue refused to comment on the citation, citing state tax confidentiality protections.