New bar and concert venue Lovebirds coming to the Old North this year
Bobby Miller described opening a music venue as a lifelong dream that has led him to scout prospective Columbus locations for years, including the former Budd Dairy building in Italian Village, which has since been renovated as a food hall that is expected to debut this year. More recently, in the months prior to the pandemic, Miller spoke with Marcy Mays about purchasing Ace of Cups, whichrecently sold to a group that includes Ace regular Conor Stratton.
“Without getting too bogged down, Marcy and I had conversations over the years in regards to what the future held for Ace of Cups” said Miller, who, under the banner of Archie Fox Live, has served as the Old North venue’s booker for nearly five years (Mays confirmed these conversations via text message; Archie Fox will continue to book occasional shows at Ace of Cups under the new ownership group). “We actually had a deal worked out before the pandemic, but then that hit and threw everything for a loop.”
While Miller said he was initially stung upon learning of the sale from Mays about a week ago, that emotion has since morphed into gratitude for his time at the venue, which he described as one of “the best chunks of my life to-date.” “Marcy has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve ever met,” he said. “I’m thrilled that Ace of Cups is going to survive. I consider it a vital part of our music community.”
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Miller hopes the same will someday be said about Lovebirds, a new bar and music venue he’s set to open later this year at 367 E. Hudson St. in Old North, roughly half a mile from Ace. Construction is scheduled to begin next month on the space, which is taking over a building that opened as a movie theater in 1925 and more recently housed a church. Initially, Miller intended Lovebirds to be more bar-focused, hosting occasional concerts in addition to a mixed bag of comedy and trivia nights, though the concept has shifted along with his role at Ace of Cups.
“When Ace sold, it opened up more opportunities for me to do stuff other places, and it just dawned on me that maybe I should lean into the music more with my own place,” Miller said.
Miller has long been intrigued by the Hudson Street building, finally striking a deal last summer to lease the space from its owner, Nick Wolak, who also owns and operates nearby tattoo parlor Evolved Body Art.
“I’ve always been casually fascinated by the building since it’s so visible, but there was also this shroud of mystery around it since it was this weird church for a long time,” said Miller, who initially hoped for a spring opening but is now targeting Sept. 1 due to pandemic-related delays. “I hope it happens sooner, but [September] feels realistic to me. … And that timing could turn out to be perfect, knock on wood, because based on what I’ve read and the conversations I’ve had, by then we could have a significant part of the population inoculated [from COVID-19]. Then it’s just a matter of people finding their comfort level so things can slowly ramp back up to where maybe in 2022 we’re back to some semblance of where we were before this happened.”
Concerts will take place on the second floor, with a capacity in the neighborhood of 100 to 150 people, and Miller envisions hosting live music two to four nights a week, focusing on but not limited to the types of rising indie-rock bands he has booked in the past both withArchie Fox at Ace of Cups and for music festivals like the now-defunctFourth and Fourth.
“I can still do the bigger shows at Ace of Cups, but stuff that would maybe be too small there could be cool at Lovebirds,” Miller said. “There are a ton of shows that come through Ace where you see a lot of potential in the band, or they’re just getting a lot of buzz, and they draw maybe 100 people, and it’s a good show, but it feels like there’s still a lot of room. This space will be more intimate."
In addition to the second floor, where Miller also intends to host comedy shows and dance parties along with regular concerts, Lovebirds will consist of a first floor bar, a rooftop deck and a backyard patio that Miller described as a spacious beer garden, complete with a firepit, bocce courts and a stage for occasional outdoor events. In the summer months, Miller said he could even envision hosting starlit midnight movie screenings — a nod to the building’s cinematic past.
“I can’t point to one place, specifically, that was the inspiration [for Lovebirds]. There are touchstones throughout my 20 years in this business that I’ve always just been cataloguing in my brain, like, ‘If I ever have a place, I want to do this and I want to do this,’” Miller said. “That’s what’s exciting about starting Lovebirds. … It’s not like I’m taking over some bar space that went out of business and now I have to develop something new in a place people are already familiar with. This will be brand new for everyone, so, in a way, I think we’ll all be developing for the place together, if that makes sense. … And I’m excited we’ll get to develop that vision from scratch, from nothing.”