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Park Street Gets a Little More Social This Fall

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Sandwiched between the Short North and Arena District, the Park Street area has managed to remain one of the most active and energetic nightlife hot spots in Columbus for the past few years. Local nightlife gurus Mike Gallicchio and Chris Corso got an early start on the area when they first opened Spice Bar, later to be followed up with their other venues, Sugar Bar and Park Street Patio. Not being the type of guys to rest on their laurels, Mike & Chris have got yet another project currently in the works. “The Social” is the title of their newest Park Street venture, which will open sometime this Fall and serve the area as a members-only lounge and nightclub.

I recently sat down with Mike & Chris to discuss their new venue, the mark they’ve made on the Columbus nightlife scene over the years, and what they think the future still holds for Park Street.

Walker Evans: Hi guys, thanks for taking the time to chat today. You’re getting ready to open up The Social, your fourth Park Street venture, in just a few more months. My understanding is that it’s going to be a private, members-only type venue. Is that correct?

Chris Corso: Yeah. The real gist of it is that over the last ten years we’ve had friends, family, customers, clients, and so many other people that have supported us, that we’ve always wanted to do something that was cool just for them. We wanted to make this something that wasn’t just completely money driven, because the cost to build these things out is usually pretty high. Since we already own the space between Sugar and Park Street Patio, we are already paying the mortgage. We’ve already got the insurance, we’ve already got the labor overhead here, the kitchen and a lot of other things are here… so this is the first time it has made sense for us to do something kind of special for our friends and supporters. So, that’s kind of the basis of the membership thing. It’s not a pretentious thing, it’s not a VIP room, and it’s not money driven… it just makes sense financially for us to be able to finally do this and not just run people through it to pay for the infrastructure. With a place like the Spice Bar, you’re talking upwards of $2 million to build a place like that, so you have a financial obligation, unfortunately, each month to put some numbers through there. We think this can be a different kind of spot. We know there is a great crowd of people out there that might appreciate something like this.

WE: It does sound as if it would have an indirect benefit for you guys as well, because it is showing those customers and friends that you care about them with a venue like this.

CC: Absolutely.

Mike Gallicchio: That’s what we’re hoping for.

CC: To start up the membership, we are going to go through our list of friends and people we’ve known for a long time and say “You guys have been great, hope you want to become part of this, here is how things are going to work”. It’s going to be a nice place with a lounge, a dance floor, a rooftop deck, and some other pretty cool features. It’s multi-dimensional, so anyone can come down and have a good time no matter what they’re looking for.

WE: Mike, you walked me through the space and it and it’s coming along pretty quicly. What’s the décor going to be like?

MG: We’re going with darker woods, candles… keeping it nice and sexy in there. Nothing crazy. It will be a nice place to hang out.

CC: I think we’re looking to create an intimate place, but still have some energy in there. We’re not going for the super modern Vegas feel, just something that can fit well in the neighborhood. You can hang out at the bar or dance without the venue feeling too “out there”. Almost like your crib, just go in there, be relaxed, and have a nice time.

MG: We were originally going to call it “Home”.

CC: Yeah, we were going to call it Home but there’s already another place called Home. As nice as some people’s condos are around here, you think it would be nice just to party in someone’s condo and not deal with normal bar scene. So we’ve designed The Social as if you could live there.

WE: A few months ago I heard some rumors that you were building this new venue, and I had been wondering when we were going to hear the next step from you guys. It seems like every couple of years you are re-inventing yourselves and creating something new. For those who may not know, you guys originally brought us Fabric, The Red Zone, and all of the Long Street clubs. It sounds like you’re pretty dedicated to the Park Street area now. Do you think it still has some staying power as a nightlife destination?

CC: I think this area’s still got a lot of legs. We invested in buying a good portion of this block, so we actually control some the real estate here now. Between ourselves and the guys that own Bar Louie’s, we control about 85% of the retail space here so that we can kind of determine what’s going to come into the neighborhood, which should help to preserve its longevity. By functioning as a developer, we can pick and choose the type of businesses we need to locate down here. We’ve talked with the guys from Bar Louie’s a lot about what the block needs. This is what drove us to create The Social. You see so many people walking down the street that are saying “Where can we go now? We ate dinner, we hit Park Street Patio, we did Brothers, is there anything else for us to do?”

MG: We’re also kind of an extension of the Short North, which also has still got a lot of longevity.

WE: Yeah, the Short North is still really on the upswing. Being next to the Arena District also makes you neighbors with Nationwide, who has development plans on the table for additional apartments and condos and offices located a few short blocks from Park Street.

MG: I think in this area we’ve still got a good ten year run ahead of us.

CC: Obviously the economy is slowing some things down, but we’re probably talking another five years of build out before we even start getting to a cycle of normal nightlife longevity. When we did The Red Zone we were on an island. With Long Street, that area never really developed as fast as it was supposed to. Park Street is an explosive area. Rarely do you find this many bars and restaurants surrounded by so many other things such as the Arena, the LC, Huntington Park… not to mention the Convention Center. We’ve also got Harrison West, which has completely blown up in the past few years. Neighborhoods like Italian Village are still growing, and people are still pouring into this area who want to be able to walk around, eat, drink, shop and never have to leave.

WE: Out of all of your past and present venues, what type of space have you enjoyed the most?

MG: I think they’re all kind of special in a way; they each have their own good memories. They’re all different from each other, different times, different people… but all good in their own ways. I thought that the Standard Lounge was a cool little funky spot.

CC: I really think that what we have right now on Park Street is the goal we were working towards. It’s great to have enough diversity and enough people in one area to survive for the long term. This area provides people with the choice of restaurants, bars, some cool spots, some generic spots. Beyond us not having the Red Zone actually down here, Park Street almost has it all. I will say that we do miss the house music, and we do miss the days of Red Zone sometimes. The music was so energetic, and that’s all that mattered. These days the music has changed, so it’s difficult to replicate something like that. So I would say that’s the only thing we really miss. We started when house music was blowing up in Columbus… Mike got me hooked on it and that’s all we did for six years straight.

WE: Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t realize that you used to be DJ, Mike. That’s kind of how you started off, right?

MG: It kind of was.

WE: Do you still own turntables and throw down every once in a while?

MG: Yeah, I’ve got them set up at the house. Once in a while I’ll get the kids out dancing.

WE: Well, speaking of ever-changing trends… when you guys are working on a new concept, are you looking to provide something that people are already looking for, or trying to deliver something ahead of the curve and help shape the next trend?

CC: I think anyone that tries to come to Columbus and set a trend is probably not a wise business person. Whatever we are doing is already being done somewhere in the world… it’s just a matter of if Columbus ready for it and how far we can push it. We love being in Columbus, but Mike and I have to make rational decisions. Even with The Social there were some difficult decisions to make. Do we just blow open the doors and pack the place like we know we can do? Or do we try to do something a little bit cooler, and a little more sophisticated, which is more work and much riskier? We’ve always been willing to take some risks, but I don’t think we are trying to carve any new paths in Columbus. From a financial sense, I don’t think this is the town to necessarily do that.

MG: I think it’s a combination of both. We’re trying to push the envelope a bit, but obviously we know our boundaries. That’s why we’ve been successful for so long. Normally I’m the guy that is trying to take it to the very edge and Chris is the guy saying “No man, come back to reality bro! We’ve got to pay the bills!”

CC: The other cool thing about Park Street is that it allows us to spend some money just trying to do fun, exciting things in the area. There’s a lot of things we don’t make any money on. Events like the Park Street Festival are really hard to make any money on, even though they are packed. They bring a lot of people in, but those are huge events that cost a couple hundred thousand dollars to throw. If we bring in big DJ’s or Paris Hilton, typically in our market those are money-losing bets. Even though we can bring in a huge crowd, people don’t realized that Paris costs $20,000 to get her here in Columbus, and it also takes every piece of skill we’ve had over the years to get them to come here and trust us that it’s going to be a good event. So you know, we’ve been doing some of those types of things to help shape the market. We want to see that type of stuff happen in Columbus, so if we don’t do it, a lot of times it’s not going to happen at all.

WE: Cool. Any final things you guys would like to add?

MG: Look forward to the Social Room! It’s coming soon… it’ll be here in the fall.

CC: Yeah, we’re excited. It’s going to be a good addition to Columbus nightlife.

WE: Thanks again for taking the time today, guys.

More information can be found online at social.thecgsgroup.com.

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