Three years ago, Ryan Simonds and Jon Trahan had an idea to open a permanent music festival campgrounds in the mountains.
But when COVID hit, the two local DJs headed back to the drawing board.
“We saw all these venues close during the pandemic, and then Beta, which was one of the biggest names in the game for years, closed and left a hole in the downtown market,” Trahan said. “So, instead of finding something a couple hours away from town, we decided to focus on our own city.”
This summer, the business partners are getting ready to open Kulture Music Hall at 1801 Wynkoop St. in the basement of the Ice House Condos. The Boiler Room, a speakeasy and events venue, operated there from 2018 to 2020.
“We want this to be a venue for the music fans,” Trahan said. “There are standard clubs like Temple, The Church and Vinyl, which have stayed in the same niche since they opened. We want to give people a safe space, and something that’s not set in stone. We plan to constantly be innovating different things, changing the light setups or having some fun themed nights to get more interaction with the music culture in Denver.”
Simonds, 41, and Trahan, 31, met 13 years ago through mutual friends in Denver’s local music scene. Trahan, a Denver native, has been DJing at clubs around town since 2008, and Simonds started DJing six years ago.
Music was always their part-time gig. Simonds, who has been going to raves since 1995, worked in the automotive and manufacturing industry. And Trahan worked full-time as a licensed general contractor, DJing at clubs on the weekends.
“I ended up having a family. So, I had to take a step back from music for a few years and focus on them,” Trahan said. “But when the pandemic hit, it gave Ryan and I some time to step back from our nine-to-fives and start turning what I thought was initially a pipedream into a reality.”
Kulture Music Hall, which they hope to open in July, will host a variety of musicians, including indie rock bands and electronic dance music DJs. Every event will be ticketed, the owners said.
Trahan and Simonds signed a 10-year lease for the 11,412-square-foot space in January. They’re using their own savings to fund the business and are installing a Bass Boss sound system, adding bars, building a green room and putting in a new light system. Architect Mark Leese with Denver-based Leese & Associates is designing the space.
“The location is dead center in the middle of the city next to Union Station, and there’s a huge crowd around there all the time anyway,” Simonds said. “More importantly, there’s nothing like this in LoDo. There are a lot of bars and clubs. But there’s nowhere for a music fest to go in the middle of LoDo right now.”
The duo wants to hire around 50 people to run the music hall. They plan to train the employees to deal with trauma, have a social worker on staff and have specialized staff trained for health emergencies.
“We want people to feel safe and genuinely look out for the safety of everyone in the venue,” Simonds said. “It’s pretty common in the festival scene with crowd control making sure everyone is having a good time. But no venue or club has really done that yet. So, we hope to be a model for others.”
Now that Simonds and Trahan are turning their part-time passion into a full-time gig, guests might be able to catch a glimpse of them performing on stage.
“Over the years, a lot of people in the local music scene have been incredibly kind to me and given me opportunities I never thought I would have,” Simonds said. “I’ve called many places home here. So, I want to give the scene something in return and have a new home for everybody.”