Summit Up

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A music scene that was grasping for midsize venues as recently as a few months ago now finds itself with a flock of places to rock. A week after promoter Ben Hamilton launched his series of concerts at Milo Arts, Cafe Bourbon Street owner Lou Poster is opening a midsize venue next door to his beloved dive.

The Summit will occupy the space formerly known as Jack's and Summit Station, 2210 Summit St. The bar debuts with a two-night blowout this Friday and Saturday featuring many of the bands that have helped make Bourbon Street a hub of local underground rock - Times New Viking, Cheater Slicks, Sword Heaven and more.

It promises to be a triumphant occasion, and it barely would have seemed possible last spring, when The Summit space sat vacant and Bourbon Street was closed while Poster ironed out the legal details of taking over both bars.

"I had no income, I had no bar, I had no shows going on," Poster said, recalling a period when a weeklong hiatus turned into nearly two months out of business.

Now Bourbon Street is open and flourishing once again, with some shows drawing bigger crowds than the bar can hold. Word-of-mouth and national press for certain local bands have turned the bar known as Bobo into more than just the favorite hangout of some close-knit friends. Shows that used to draw 30 or 40 pals now attract 200 or more fresh young faces with increasingly divergent tastes.

Poster hopes that natural growth can spill over into The Summit to help preserve Bobo's unique culture.

"Bourbon Street has an identity that's pretty well set," Poster said. "We still do a lot of diverse stuff here, but over there I think it's going to be a slightly more diverse thing - just whoever needs a room that's about that size that I feel can fill it."

Besides hosting a broader swath of local acts, Poster wants The Summit to be like Stache's, the North Campus venue that preceded Little Brother's - an intimate space that's large enough to host popular national acts before they move on to concert halls.

He also hopes The Summit can treat traveling bands as well as bars in Europe do, specifically by putting them up for the night. Once Poster and his staff finish renovating the front of the house, they intend to convert the back of the building into an office, a green room and a lodging area.

"Having to hustle and try to find someplace to crash all the time is just a pain," Poster said. "So I want to be able to offer our touring bands good treatment, good hospitality. And I think that we're going to be able to draw bands to Columbus that normally bypass it."

Meanwhile, bands in the thriving Bourbon Street scene have their favorite haunt back, and countless more local acts get an exciting new place to perform, starting with this weekend's launch party.

"It went from the worst possible scenario," Poster said, "to the best-case scenario."