400 Commerce Returns: But As What?
• Tim Huck to bring former club to new glory.
• 400 Commerce St. (formerly Bricktown and Kokopelli’s).
• The interior of the new venue is under extensive renovation.
• Phoenix Underground during its heyday.
Last week, Tim Huck almost broke the Internet. The local business owner who owns a restaurant, residential real estate and a downtown nightspot posted two words on the Facebook page of the now-defunct Phoenix Underground, a popular dance club that closed in 2016. Those two Internet-breaking words: “Guess What!!!” It didn’t take long for the guesses to start flowing and at least one local media outlet to pick up on the speculation, too. The rumor mill was awash with conjecture that the underground party spot at 600 North Market would be reopening. That is not going to be happening.
What is going to be happening is something that should be even cooler, something you might consider Phoenix Underground 2.0. The still-unnamed space could be called “Phoenix something,” Huck says. He is still working on it but says, “the name has to be perfect.” While he is considering the perfect name, he and his former Phoenix crew are working on what he hopes will be the perfect Top 40 dance club at 400 Commerce Street.
The 26,000-square-foot structure has seen some things come and go. Built in 1895 as the Hicks Company, Ltd., a wholesale grocer and cotton merchant, it later became the warehouse for the Hemenway Furniture Company, the headquarters for the DRS Beverage Company, The Planter’s Seed Company and the short-lived Randol’s Restaurant. It then entered the era of clubs, as Bricktown and Kokopelli’s.
Huck, who owns a popular club called The Sandbar just across the alley from 400 Commerce, has long loved the building, the location and the idea of creating a walkable, clean, safe, fun, downtown entertainment “community.”
When he walked inside, he knew this was the place. “The architecture is just incredible,” he says smiling, pointing to the giant columns and soaring ceiling.
His plans for the building first have to do with significant cleanup and clean-out. He is playing a hands-on role in the reimagined space, choosing the light gray color for some walls as a better backdrop for the lighting, deciding on the white, “easy to clean” banquettes for the VIP area. The south interior wall will be repainted to make it look like bricks again (it had been painted an ugly beige), and stripping the filthy carpet from the second floor to create a clean and open space that can be reserved for groups and parties.
Huck is proud of the transformation he is witnessing. The floor once covered by purple carpet that looked black because of the filth is now down to the wood. “This took 140 sanding and buffing pads to complete because of the amount of adhesive on the floor,” he says. “We bought out all the pads in the area. I hired a floor crew to do it, and after a few days, they told me they had seriously underbid this project. It took three weeks of sanding and buffing to complete.”
The place is a beehive of activity. Metalworkers and cleanup crews work sideby-side to put in railings, bars, a stage, dance floor, general admission and VIP spaces. Bathrooms are being painted and cleaned, cobwebs are being swept out, even the alley, once filled with overflowing dumpsters, is getting attention.
Huck is most proud of plans for the lights in the club, $100,000 worth of LEDs that will transform the space into something he and light/sound specialist Lomax the Grey have been working on each day.
“There are clubs in Dallas that have amazing lights,” Lomax says. ‘This club is going to be better.”
“We’ll be able to do inside what the new lighted Texas Street Bridge will be doing outside,” says Huck, ‘We can change the whole color of the club just by hitting a button.’ When the still-to-be-named club opens – “before New Year’s Eve,” Huck says -- it will sport amazing lights, a great sound system. It will feature Top 40 dancing, a stage for live performances, multiple bar areas, several locations for VIP groups and parties, outside seating and limited food service. They are working on the food service menu now.
Huck believes the new space will fill a niche lacking since the closure of Phoenix Underground. Based on some of the comments to the “Guess What!!!” post – “I’ll come back to Shreveport for that!” “Goin’ to be epic!” “Yessss, please.” “Finally!” and “Dreams do come true” – he could be right.
Liz Swaine is the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. She can be reached at email@example.com.