For the last five weeks, there's been a bit of a lull on the west end of Main Street. The normally bustling sidewalk in front of Ivory Lounge has been uncharacteristically quiet while the club has been closed for a complete remodeling.
But this Friday, July 25, the night club will open its doors for its grand reopening. The night will feature live music DJ Mark M., all-night drink specials and a chance for attendees to check out the completely overhauled digs. We sat down with owner, Ambrish Piare, to talk about his role as a downtown business owner, the club's new look and his hopes for downtown Sarasota.
What spawned the idea for the remodel?
When I took over Ivory Lounge in December of 2011, I did my first remodel at the beginning of 2012. We added the fish tank and the VIP lounge, and that really sparked the new Ivory and what people would come to know it for.
After a year and a half, a lot of new places have opened, and people have more choices, so I thought it was time to shake things up again to give our clientele something new to enjoy for the next two years or so, and I'll probably be ready to remodel again. That's just the nature of the nightclub business — you have to maintain your clientele's interest.
What all went into the remodel? What's new?
It was a complete remodel; everything you can touch will be completely new. There's a new bar, a new sound booth, new lighting, new sound system and even a new layout. That's probably our biggest change. The old setup was basically two rooms: one for the dance floor and one for the VIP area. Now, the VIP area is in the same area as the dance floor. When you look at the popular clubs in places like Miami and Las Vegas, the VIP area is about being seen. Our old set up was very popular and very exclusive, but this will offer more visibility and help them feel like they're part of the whole club.
Why was this remodel so important to you?
You can go into any place in Sarasota, and they're all great and they all have their own thing going for them. But there's no other place you can go on a Friday or Saturday night that will have this level of energy. And I want to maintain that. With the remodel, things are going to be even more high-energy than they were before.
What can people expect?
The new layout also allows us to do other things. We'll be open every day except Monday. On Tuesdays, we'll have karaoke, Wednesday open-mic night, and we'll have a happy hour with food from my restaurant next door, Café Americano, every night but Saturday.
You've had a lot of trouble dealing with complaints about sound and other alleged code violations in the past. Do you see this as a chance for a fresh start?
We got the official word from the city that we weren't committing any violations — sound or otherwise — so we appear to be in good standing. I wouldn't be surprised if that discussion began again when we open, but to be honest, as long as we continue to do nothing wrong, I'm not worried about it. There are just going to be some people who don't like me or don't like Ivory or don't like that we host LGBT events. Whatever it may be, that's a battle I choose not to fight, because I can't win it. But I think it's really important to have diversity in a downtown — that's what brings people here. There are plenty of other places people can go if they don't like a night club.
What are you most looking forward to about the grand reopening?
Come Friday night, there will be 300 people in Ivory Lounge, dancing and partying and just totally letting go. It's going to be packed, and the energy from them, the music and the DJ just all comes together, and it's something I've really missed while we've been closed. I can't wait.