Spend enough time talking to people in Boulder’s arts and culture scene and you’ll hear a familiar complaint about a lack of accessible space. Showgoers regularly line up around the block for blockbuster touring acts at the Boulder and Fox theaters — but when it comes to smaller venues with rental fees appropriate for most local and emerging artists, with some notable exceptions, the pickings are slim to say the least.
Enter the Boulder Elks Lodge (3975 28th St.) A community cornerstone since the turn of the 20th century, the one-time hotspot for local live music and events had seen better days since getting walloped by a series of misfortunes in recent years: asbestos removal, roof repair and last summer’s flooding, to name just a few. But now this local mainstay is poised for a comeback after deep renovations to its 10,000 square-foot ballroom and dining area, reopening its doors to the general public for the first time in more than a decade.
“Opening the new event center at this time is a blessing for Boulder and local musicians,” says events and marketing coordinator Mark Wood, himself a musician and longtime Elks Lodge member who launched his natural foods brand Appleooz from its kitchen in 2012. “We want to be eclectic. We want to appeal to a variety of different audiences. … I mean, we’re an older organization, but we’d really like to have younger music and younger people hanging out.”
Updates to the historic gathering place include a brand new 3,000 square-foot dancefloor, which Wood says is one of the largest in Boulder County. The handsome maple wood planks are spring-loaded like the Western honkey tonks of yore, providing just the right cushion for a proper Front Range boot-scoot.
“It doesn’t move, per se, but it eases the impact on the body,” Wood says of the new dancefloor — no small detail for the older clientele traditionally served by the local nonprofit. “When people dance on this, they will not want to get off.”
The public will get its first look at the new Boulder Elks Lodge during its grand reopening on Saturday, March 11. The evening will feature music from local mainstay Hazel Miller, once a fixture in the former concert hall whose singular blend of jazz, blues and R&B will mark an exciting new chapter in the story of a Boulder institution that’s been an important part of the community’s cultural life for more than a century.
Editor’s note: Don’t miss a career-spanning interview with Hazel Miller ahead of her inaugural performance at the newly renovated Elks Lodge in next week’s issue of Boulder Weekly.