Old City Businessman Plans to Build Out Entertainment District

When Gary Mitchell shut down his long-running Old City club Blue Cats last year and moved into The Valarium, he said he intended the new 1,000-capacity venue to be the anchor of a new warehouse entertainment district. It sounded like an optimistic plan at best—the area around the former Electric Ballroom, surrounded by the conjunction of Interstates 75 and 275 and Western Avenue, had a reputation for being difficult to get to, and a series of other clubs had intermittently occupied the space for more than 15 years without attracting other businesses.

But Mitchell is finally revealing plans for a massive expansion in the area, with new spaces opening to accommodate a new dance club, a barbecue restaurant, a comedy club, and an outdoor stage with room for 7,500 people.

"It's going to be a one-stop party in a box," Mitchell says. "There's lots of convenient parking and we'll have multiple rooms with multiple styles of music."

The first step was the opening this spring of The Ciderhouse adjacent to The Valarium. Now Mitchell's working with Sweet P's BBQ and The Comedy Zone and planning UFO, a second weekly dance night to complement Saturday's VooDoo. There are also plans to expand the balcony section of the main Valarium room. Mitchell says he hopes to get all of it—comedy nights, dance nights, and food service—ready by the end of the year, though he's going to be careful about unveiling the outdoor space.

"It's going to be a very large national act," he says. "It's going to be worthy of a grand opening. It'll be this summer or next summer. We'll have the other rooms coming online about every four months and have everything built out by New Year's Eve."