Three years ago, a Queen cover band in Columbus was looking for a multi-instrumentalist, and Spacebar owner Ben DeRolph was up for the job.
Things changed, though, when DeRolph had a beer with friend and member of the band, Jacob Wooten, who owned a rock bar named Kobo. Wooten was planning on closing his music venue, but after a conversation with DeRolph, he ended up asking DeRolph if he wanted to buy it.
So, DeRolph took over Kobo, gutted the place and made it Spacebar.
On Friday and Saturday, the Clintonville bar and music venue will celebrate its third anniversary with a series of free concerts featuring seven different bands — including local bands such as Friendly Faux, The Up All Nights and Matter of Planets.
DeRolph said all of the bands performing at the anniversary show are friends of the bar. Members of Friendly Faux even helped rig the lights above the stage, just hours before Spacebar’s opening night.
“One thing that I’ve tried to do for each of our anniversaries [is get] people who have played here and become friends of ours and been like involved in the place aside from just coming to play shows.”
DeRolph said when he bought Kobo from Wooten, he moved the stage to a more prominent location, revamped the sound system and cleaned the place up, with the aim of making Spacebar the kind of place he would personally want to spend time in.
“It’s always been a pipe dream of mine to have my own venue,” DeRolph said. “And … to [have it] be what I would like it to be if I was one of the musicians performing there or if I was just one of the people coming to see a concert there.”
Prior to owning Spacebar, DeRolph worked as an audio engineer at a music venue in Athens, Ohio, had his own recording studio, and even spent time playing in bands of his own.
DeRolph said a somewhat similar employment history runs through nearly everyone who works at Spacebar.
“It sounds cheesy, [but] almost everyone that works here is or has been in a band,” he said. “We don’t just want to be a part of this scene, we’re tied with it.”
In addition to the fact that the majority of people working at Spacebar are also musicians themselves, DeRolph said that he’s had a relationship with many of the employees before they worked for him.
Brian Ostrander, the venue’s bar and booking manager, met DeRolph while studying at Ohio University, and Ostrander often held events at the music store where DeRolph used to work. Ostrander used to work at Kobo, and was hired onto Spacebar when DeRolph took over.
Ostrander said the fact that everyone who works at Spacebar are friends with each other makes it a great place to work.
“Everyone at the bar wants to be here and loves the place and cares about it being successful,” Ostrander said. “We’re not just all hanging out … we all really care about the place so everyone does their job.”