Knoxville's night life will take a big hit later this month when the Valarium closes after five years of business, leaving the city's entertainment infrastructure without a mid-size club venue.
The last day of business for the Valarium and its companion club, the Cider House, will be Saturday, Nov. 24.
The 1,000-capacity Valarium, located just outside of downtown, in the shadow of Interstates 40 and 275, opened in 2007 with a free performance by '90s alt-rock guitar hero J Mascis and his band Dinosaur, Jr. Over the years, it has hosted concerts by big-name and mid-level groups like N.E.R.D., Mumford and Sons, Drive-By Truckers, and, just a few weeks ago, the reunited New York avant-rock band Swans, as well as regular sets by EDM acts like Shpongle and Skrillex and regular weekend dance nights.
The club's management announced the news on the club's website on Friday, Nov. 2. The message cites "new rule changes" from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission that would make the Valarium's current operations unfeasible.
"Due to new rule changes from the TN Alcoholic Beverage Commission concerning the minimum percentage of food an establishment must sell in relation to its gross sales, our venues will be closing," reads the message, attributed to the clubs' management. "We also cannot comply with the minimum number of days they require us to be open per week. Since we cannot meet their requirements, we will relinquish and not renew our ABC license when it expires November 24th, 2012."
Valarium and Cider House owner Gary Mitchell refused to comment for this story, except to say he is planning a lawsuit. (Whom Mitchell plans to sue, and for what, is unclear.) As of press time, an attorney from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission had not provided clarification on the relevant legislation.
When the Valarium opened, Mitchell talked about his plans for a warehouse entertainment district that would include restaurants, retail, live music, and nightclubs. The only step in that direction was the opening of the Cider House in 2009.
In April, Mitchell had announced plans to convert an adjacent parking lot into an outdoor music park. At the time, he indicated the clubs were already in financial trouble.
"Right after we opened, the economy got so bad that it wasn't viable," he said then. "Now we're operating on a wing and prayer, hoping that the economy will be viable again."
The last event scheduled for either venue is the regular Taboo dance night on Saturday, Nov. 24.
The Dec. 11 Halestorm concert scheduled at the Valarium has been moved to the Tennessee Theatre. The Napalm Death/Municipal Waste concert on Nov. 25 has been moved to J.J.'s Bohemia in Chattanooga. Brian Coakley, the organizer of the regular Midnight Voyage EDM shows at the Cider House and Valarium, says he's already in discussion with other club owners about possible locations for those shows.