Like many gigging musicians in Visalia, Marc Dwelle had an attachment to the Cellar Door and was heartbroken when the night club/music venue closed in August.
After all, the space had been around for 15 years and with the help of Sound N Vision Foundation (Dwelle is a board member) was a guiding light for live music in the South Valley. Booking agents knew the Cellar Door was a keen spot to play as the place hosted a range of national touring acts over the years: Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and the Cold War Kids, Foster the People and Phantogram (both of which headlined Grizzly Fest), Frank Black, Pinback, Diarrhea Planet, Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend.
Local bands fed off the cachet of cutting their teeth on the venue’s stage.
“Immediately, it left a void here in town,” Dwelle says.
But not for long – Dwelle and business partner Ryan Sullivan have bought the business from the previous owners Dan and Denise Littleton.
If all goes as planned, the new Cellar Door will be opened by Wednesday, just in time for Thanksgiving weekend (aka the busiest bar night of the year).
Already, there are concerts on the Sound N Vision calendar into March of next year. That includes the indie songstress Waxahatchee (who play Feb. 28 with Bonny Doon) and original Bones Brigade skaterboarder-turned-musician Tommy Guerrero. The alt-jazz guitarist plays Dec. 8.
For now, folks won’t notice too much change in the venue, Dwelle says.
“Our primary interested is getting back open,” he says.
Eventually, the vibe of the spot will evolve. There’s a craft cocktail menu coming, says Tate Darwin, who was brought on as head bartender. Darwin has worked at Jack and Charlies and the Vintage Press, and is known for his old-school pre-prohibition-style cocktails. Those will be balanced with a solid beer selection and other quick drinks, he says.
There will be a wine list eventually, but good wine lists take time to develop, he says, and there’s also a fully stocked wine cellar that needs to be looked through first.
They also plan to work with local chefs and use the venue’s kitchen to create food pop-ups, he says.
And all of this builds on the culture and vibe that exists in downtown Visalia and supports the community of artists/musicians and fans who made the venue such a landmark to begin with, Dwelle says.
“It’s not about buying a nightclub. It’s about being stewards of the thing that Cellar Door was.”