Tiki Bar Owner to Open New Club in Former Valarium Space

The mysterious saga of the Valarium looks like it will have a new chapter soon, when local tiki entrepreneur Daniel Leal reopens the warehouse venue as Blackstock Auditorium. (The club is located at the corner of Blackstock and Western avenues.)

The 1,000-capacity Valarium, which had served as one of the mid-size pillars of Knoxville's night life for five years and had been the Electric Ballroom before that, closed on Nov. 24. Valarium owner Gary Mitchell claimed in a letter posted on the club's website in early November that the club was closing because of rigorous new regulation from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. But the rules he cited—regarding how many nights a club must be open and what percentage of revenue must come from food—didn't match up with the ABC's regulations, and the most significant rule changes from the commission were instituted back in 2010. Mitchell refused to comment on the discrepancy, but told a reporter he planned to sue. Exactly who the target of a potential lawsuit might be wasn't clear.

But the mysterious circumstances may not matter much when Leal, the owner of Ooga Mooga's Tiki Tavern near the University of Tennessee campus, opens his auditorium, maybe as soon as mid-December, when he expects his application for a beer license to be approved.

Leal also bought the former Cider House, a smaller club adjacent to the Valarium, that he plans to convert into a tiki club.

The Blackstock Auditorium's programming will differ from the Valarium's mix of electronic dance music, hard rock and metal, and jam bands, Leal says. In fact, he suggests, the new venue may be home to regional and national country performers.

"We're going to diversify [the acts] a little," Leal said. "We're bringing something new. They kind of got stuck."

The Valarium's long-running Saturday dance night, with roots all the way back to '90s Old City clubs Fiction and the Underground, will be a casualty of Leal's new vision for the buildings, freeing up the stage for live music.

"We're going to get rid of the dance night," Leal says. "There's a lot of good acts that come through on Saturdays."

At least two shows are already booked for the Blackstock: Knoxville-based metal heavyweights Whitechapel and co-headliners Emmure will bring their Brothers in Brutality tour to the new venue on Jan. 8, and Canadian dubstep producer Excision will perform on March 6.