Dave Foster, with Colorado Plumbing, and Heating works behind the bar at The Ghost Ranch Saloon. The new downtown music venue is schedule to open May 22.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Dave Foster, with Colorado Plumbing, and Heating works behind the bar at The Ghost Ranch Saloon. The new downtown music venue is schedule to open May 22.

Ghost Ranch goes for the big gigs

Downtown saloon looks for national acts, could boost scene

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- Ghost Ranch Saloon is scheduled to open May 22. The venue recently confirmed its first booking with Reverend Horton Heat set to play July 18. Advance tickets are available for $25, plus a $3 service charge, at Big Marks Tickets.

- For more information about booking, entertainment or employment at the music venue, bar and restaurant, go online to Ghost Ranch Saloon.

As interior construction takes shape, the Ghost Ranch Saloon has started going after national booking agents to fill out a music schedule for its first few months in business.

The Seventh Street venue recently secured its first booking, with Texas rockabilly act Reverend Horton Heat scheduled to play July 18.

"It was an early booking, for sure," Ghost Ranch co-owner Amy Garris said, noting that Reverend Horton Heat tends to book far in advance to keep his hectic tour schedule manageable.

With a major label act as their first confirmed performer - Rev. Heat is signed to the North Carolina-based Yep Roc Records - Garris and Ghost Ranch booking agent David Arthur are going after musicians with a level of recognition not often seen in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Tracy Barnett, manager of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said Mainstreet would like to move toward making downtown "more of an arts and entertainment district," and Ghost Ranch could be a step in that direction.

"The nighttime economy is a great sales generator, and we don't have enough of that," she said. "Music is a huge draw, and we should have a lot more of it. The Ghost Ranch will be a good start, but I hope that we have more of that downtown - (businesses) that are strictly entertainment venues."

No other bands have been booked for the club, which will hold almost 400 people. Garris said she'd like to see three or four national acts on the Ghost Ranch schedule each month.

For the venue's opening weekend May 22, Garris and Arthur are aiming for three or four acts. They have a few names in mind - but with a firm opening date only recently announced, no definite contacts - and are looking at bands of a national caliber such as Spearhead, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Rebirth Brass Band.

"Most touring bands book about three months out, so we're getting into that wheelhouse now," Garris said.

Keeping economy in mind

Construction on Ghost Ranch should be done in April, leaving more than a month for staff training and soft openings before Memorial Day weekend.

In designing an appetizer-focused menu and starting to think about what kind of happy hour or other bar specials Ghost Ranch might offer, Garris said she is keeping tourism and spending figures in mind.

"We're definitely thinking about the economy and how it might affect finances and spending habits, and we're just going to design our schedule to fit what we think (will work)," Garris said. In putting together a music and entertainment calendar, Garris said she'd like to hit as many crowds as possible, offering music of every genre at every possible business hour.

"I'd plan to have someone on stage every hour we're open," Garris said. She's interested in booking local musicians to play happy hour or early evening sets. When that can't happen, a recently purchased 1908 saloon-style player piano will fill the space.

Barnett said she would look forward to an opportunity to hear live music earlier in the evening.

"One of the things we hear more often than not is that there (should) be something to do downtown at night," Barnett said. Several bars offer live music, but most shows don't start until 10 p.m. or later. "Some people are done with dinner, and it's 7:30 or 8 p.m., and they don't want to wait until 10 p.m."

Most tickets less than $30

Arthur has sent out a mailing to about 300 national booking agents, and he plans to send more later this month. Arthur, who books bands out of Denver, likely will wait for a response to those mailings before moving ahead with many more bookings, Garris said.

The mailer solicits "bands of every sort," including: "Those about to rock : Friends in low places : Rockers of the Casbah : Lawyers, guns and money : and Pinball wizards."

Garris has some interest in pursuing acts that might be on their way to or from a venue such as Belly Up Aspen, but he doesn't have much interest in pursuing that venue's price point - tickets at the 450-person-capacity Belly Up start at about $10 but can go as high as $200 for Billboard-level acts.

"The idea is to keep it in that $30-or-better price range," Garris said. "I'd rather charge less for tickets and have a packed bar than charge more for tickets and have a half-full bar."

The Ghost Ranch price range would be similar to that of Levelz, a Ski Time Square music venue that closed in 2006 because of structural issues. That club, along with the Inferno, booked up-and-coming and mid-level acts that went on to become big, Joe Kboudi said.

As the owner of All That Jazz music store and one of the organizers of the Free Summer Concert Series, Kboudi has decades of experience with live music in Steamboat Springs. He said Levelz had a strong draw for locals because of its talented acts and reasonably priced tickets.

"The bands that played Inferno and Levelz were really good quality bands, but they were on their way up," Kboudi said. "It gave the community a chance to see some really great bands in their back yard."

Shot of life for downtown

Once Arthur has filled as many spots on the Ghost Ranch schedule as possible with national acts, he'll go after the best of the music scene in Denver. Those bands will be followed by regional acts. The schedule's opening slots, free nights and happy hour times likely will focus on local or regional talent, Garris said. Themed nights, movie screenings and DJ sets also will play a part in the bar schedule.

"The idea is that seven days a week there should be something going on," Garris said.

As much as Ghost Ranch's co-owners and managers hope the bar and club will revitalize the Steamboat Springs music scene, business representatives such as Barnett and Kboudi hope it will have a similar effect on downtown.

"The Ghost Ranch is a strong part of the revitalization of downtown," Kboudi said, explaining there hasn't been a major music venue in town since Levelz closed.

"It'll be a restaurant and a bar, and it'll enhance the downtown experience, for locals and for businesses," he said. "It'll put people downtown."

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204

or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com

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