The Columbus dance club scene has rapidly grown in the last few years, and it now offers a night life comparable to other major Midwestern cities. With a variety of clubs catering to almost anyone’s preference, people can spend one night dancing away to Latin salsa music and the next bouncing up and down to hard house.
With the growing popularity of upscale New York style techno clubs like Fabric and Pulse and warehouse clubs like Glow, Columbus has been able to attract some of the top DJ’s in the world.
Recently DJ’s such as Chicago’s Douglas Gene, Los Angeles’ Richard Humpty Vission and Miami’s George Acosta have played in Columbus clubs. Just in the last month, world famous performers such as Europe’s ATB and Japan’s Ken Ishii have thrilled local clubbers into the early hours of the morning.
Paul Oakenfold, a world renowned DJ who was chosen by the Guinness Book of World Records millennium edition as “The World’s Most Successful DJ” made his first ever Ohio appearance before a crowd of over two thousand people last week at 303 S. Front St., formerly the Red Zone.
According to Mike Gallicchio, the co-owner of Fabric, the electronic music and dance club scene is on the rise.
“This is mainstream now, it’s youth culture, and it’s only going to get bigger,” Gallicchio said.
Evan Glassman of Bacchus Productions, a Ohio State senior majoring in financial management, organized both ATB’s and Oakenfold’s visits to Columbus.
According to Glassman, it is still hard to attract DJ’s to Columbus because of the need to find a proper venue but it is getting easier. The money required to put on such a show and the fact that Columbus is not a first tier city like New York or Miami are key factors that limit many DJ’s from coming to Columbus.
“The Columbus club scene is exploding, and it is now able to support shows like these.” Glassman says he expects to see more big DJ’s making stops in Columbus in the future. Todd Mauger, a spokesman for Glow, said another reason Columbus will be seeing more top DJ’s is because of the rise in the popularity of electronic music in the United States, which has led many DJ’s to begin touring the country for the first time.
“These are the new rock bands now,” Gallicchio said.
“The club owners care about their business,” said Allen Saunders, general manager of the bar at Axis nightclub, “and the top clubs are paying more money to attract the top acts.”
Since the beginning of the year Pulse, a techno dance club, Casbah, a Mediterranean-style top 40 club, and several other clubs have opened their doors adding more variety to an already diverse scene. Beliefs are varied about what has fueled this dramatic growth. Saunders, who has been in the business for seven years, said one reason for the growth is a result of the good economy which Columbus has enjoyed the last few years.
Stephen Bowers, general manager of the Cellar, which is the new name of the Carlile Club, said he believes the infusion of more OSU students into the scene has contributed to the growth. Bowers said the decreasing popularity of campus bars has sent students looking for new things to do.
Students are also attracted by the recent growth of the Short North area, and the new Arena District. The Cellar’s patrons on their popular Thursday nights are dominated by OSU students and they account for a large portion of the club’s weekend revenue. Saunders estimates that between 20 and 25 percent of the patrons at Axis, Columbus’s most popular gay club, are OSU students.
The nightclub scene is not just limited to techno music though. Clubs like Liberty’s and Enigma have hip hop nights which are very popular. Fabric has a Latin night every Thursday and the Cellar has a 1980’s retro night every Saturday.
Casbah and Shark Club, both located at Easton Mall cater to an older audience. Both clubs play similar music, but beyond that that they are very different from each other. Casbah is a basement dance club while the enormous Shark Club includes even a bowling alley to go with its large bar and dance floor.
Allen Bier general manager of both Casbah and Shark Club said they opened in Easton because downtown Columbus is becoming oversaturated with clubs. Bier’s clubs are trying to draw on an older clientele which live in the surrounding area, though they welcome OSU students.
Even with the success of many new clubs, the business itself is very risky. The average life span of even the trendiest nightclub is only a few years, according to Mauger.
Red Zone, once the biggest club in Columbus, closed its doors last summer and has since been remodeled and is now available to be rented out for events. More recently, Club 504 closed, after only being open for a year. Several other clubs which have opened within just the last few years, such as Clique and FM, have either closed or had to restructure themselves in an effort to keep up with the competition.
Most seem to agree that this new competition is good though.
“It brings exposure to everybody,” Bowers said. If there is nothing to fight about it’s not exciting.”
He believes it makes things more interesting because you have people who are loyal to their favorite clubs.
Gallicchio agrees. “I like the competition, and variety is the spice of life,” he said.
It’s the competition between the clubs that is bringing in the best acts in the world, according to Mauger, as each club tries to top the others.
The future for the Columbus club scene promises only one thing – more changes. In a constantly evolving scene where it is vital to your business to stay ahead of the market, there are many different plans including outdoor events during the summer and the creation of new theme nights at different clubs.