Partial Transcript: JS: Okay. So what is your name?
DS: David Nathan Sporn.
JS: Tell me about yourself.
DS: I am a DJ, night club manager, radio host, lighting and sound designer. Yeah I have done a little bit of everything in the nightclub industry.
JS: And you have a history of a DJ- as a DJ and as an owner?
DS: As in owner I own, I do own I have multiple LLCs for doing lighting, sound, and hosting events things like that. I've never been an owner of a nightclub but I have been a manager of multiple venues in different states.
JS: Can you tell me about your past as a DJ?
DS: Sure, so I started DJing actually 10 years ago just doing fraternity parties and house parties things like that. Started developing into more music production as well as the art of turntablism the scratching, beat juggling, things like that. I have gone on to play festivals around the country as well as touring nationally as a DJ, and along the way doing more production, signing two record labels, hosting a series of events. Uh, yeah.
Segment Synopsis: David Sporn introduces himself and talks about his past as a DJ and owner.
Keywords: DJ; Richmond; manager; nightclub; owner
Subjects: DJ; nightlife
Partial Transcript: JS: Did you own the old location?
DS: I did not own the old location by any means. I was a manager of it- of the business that was there the business leased space- leased the building from another company. Most people in the nightclub industry don’t own the building that they are in.
JS: So who owned the last location? Or who was the boss?
DS: Carlos Alvarez, he was the owner of the business that was inside of that was the club that was in the building.
Segment Synopsis: David tells me about who owned the old location.
Keywords: Carlos Alvarez; business; lease; nightclub; owner
Subjects: Carlos Alvarez; boss; nightclub
Partial Transcript: JS: So just in general, just go on a tangent if you want, tell me about El Gran Tucanazo.
DS: El Gran Tucanazo, well it was a Hispanic night club based inside of one of Richmond's most historic old night clubs, it formerly was Bahama Joes, Little Texas, Crystal Pistol, on Sunday nights it was called Power Plant, things like that, that was owned formerly by Anthony Wilson. Anthony Wilson got in some trouble when he got into some legal trouble mostly not paying taxes, a couple ABC violations. Then he had to sell the business, Carlos then moved in in November 2011 and then I started there, yes I started there then later that following year. It was a Hispanic nightclub that they have would bring in Mexican country bands, play Cumbria, Bachata, Merengue, obviously some Mariachi, but it was mostly Northern Mexican country music that was played there. They were bringing in bands, some of these were big time bands, I’m talking like the Kenny Chesney of Mexico, big time artists. But then Carlos was looking for other dates to fill, there was a photographer that worked out of one of the buildings adjacent to the nightclub and shared the same parking lot that knew me from playing EDM events and doing some college touring of my own. Carlos and I got linked up and I knew guys from the University of Richmond from having been to these events myself from the days when we were in Have a Nice Day Cafe. Carlos and I started throwing some events and reached out to a few of the fraternities seeing if they were interested in trying out this new nightclub, right down the road from campus, straight down Glenside. And from there it developed into the students developing a deeper relationship with myself and then using my network as a DJ to book artists at a better deal for students so they could- students could get you know a top tier show for a much lower price, at the same time it would give me the opportunity to open for that artist, bring a friend or a homie into town, you guys get the get the deal discount whatever because I can say from my own touring I did a show in South Carolina and I did a show at a fraternity house in South Carolina, both Columbia, South Carolina, they were both very different prices, because there was some money to be spent, you know it’s business. So then it started you know from that point on for next 6 years you know Carlos would do his Saturday's with his Spanish crowd, and I'm talking to you a very strong, very dedicated crowd, as well as what I was doing on Thursdays, sometimes we would trade off on Fridays if there was a special event, something like pig roast weekend or homecoming weekend like when we had Lil Dicky. And then you know sometimes it would be rented out for special events on Sundays, Mondays, last year on Halloween was on a Tuesday so we had an event there, and it was a really interesting mix of American and Spanish, college and adult with a deep Richmond history and all the coming together and its own weird way is what made it so successful.
JS: So going off that can you tell me about your old location?
DS: The old location, well as I said it was formerly a nightclub called Bahama Joe’s before it was El Gran Tucanazo, it was at 482 person capacity venue, we had three bars in it, a main bar downstairs, small one we had it underneath of the steps as well as a large bar upstairs, we had a full kitchen where they used as a Taqueria. Oddly enough we actually had rooftop access, we could have done a rooftop bar but when we brought an architect in to check it out before we could design anything, they built it without the structural integrity to be able to hold like 50 people up there, so we had a door leading off to the rooftop part we just couldn't use it. That was the bane of my existence for 6 years. We were at Staples Mill and Glenside which is culturally actually in Richmond, it didn’t hit every demographic and I don't want to say there's some gentrification going on in that area but there's some gentrification going on in that area, right down the road actually with the the whole new Living Mill area that is being built up, which at the same time it’s also not working because of the neighborhood it's in. The building itself, it was a cinder block building, you know concrete floors, which sounds weird for concrete floors to be good for a nightclub but acoustically you know it's nothing to rattle, it's solid, speakers are sitting on something solid, we did have a stage, we had full control of audio, lighting, the TVs behind the bars we had full control of the video side. Everything in that room actually could be controlled from lighting, sound and video all from an iPad at one time. We didn't start off like that, by any means, there was a lot of remodel, a lot of renovation, it was a constant work in progress. And we had you know a large parking lot we had a large parking lot across the street, the building itself its seen a lot, the building, it's funny when we would ever hook up you know extra lights or speakers for an event we never had an issue with power because since it's been so many nightclubs throughout the years, people would have to add circuits and add breakers and add power outlets, there was more power than we knew what to do with throughout the entire building, if was really cool, we did foam parties there because it was for us to you know drain if there was any excess water to drain out just by opening the back door.
JS: So on that note, can you tell me about your new location?
DS: The new location. So right now we are at 6835 Midlothian Turnpike, still within the Richmond limits, just barely if we essentially spit and go past the Chippenham your in Chesterfield at that point. So our new location at one point was a Steak and Ale restaurant which it was originally built as and then after it was done being a steak restaurant, because all Steak and Ales closed, there used to be one at Broad and Glenside as well actually right down the road from campus. Long long time ago, actually kind of close to the old location. It's oddly enough, one of our security guys actually worked here when it was a Steak and Ale. After that closed it got purchased and turned into a Mexican restaurant and Taqueria, which eventually then turned more into a nightclub and bar atmosphere called Amigos after it was done being an Amigos the the next owner came in and turned it into a location called Blue Bar. Blue Bar lasted for 2 years they got out and then the guy that owned Amigos became the owner of the building and is working with Carlos Alvarez from El Gran Tucanazo to create a Tucan again here. We have two rooms, we have a 400 person capacity, we have 30000 watts of sound in here that has been professionally installed by the same person that did the sound install at the Richmond Coliseum. He’s actually a DJ friend of mine, so it works out. It’s been a conglomeration of lighting and sound equipment from- that was already here and stuff from the old location. We have two kitchens, we have a full Taqueria, we've got more beer varieties, more beer varieties than we've ever had, we have the capability of having two essentially two different parties going on at same time because we have two different sound systems in two different rooms, while simultaneously being able to get sound from one room playing in both rooms at the same time. Yeah is there anything specific about the building or location? We got more parking than we did before.
Segment Synopsis: David talks about El Gran Tucanazo's history, the old location and the new location.
Keywords: ABC; Chesterfield; Chippenham; DJ; EDM; Glenside; Have a Nice Day Cafe; Mariachi; Mexican; Midlothian Turnpike; Richmond; South Carolina; Staples Mill; Tacos; Toucan; Tucan; University of Richmond; dancing; nightclub; nightlife
Subjects: El Gran Tucanazo; Latino; Richmond; Tucan; USA; Virginia; nightclub; nightlife
Partial Transcript: JS: Well definitely on the new location, this skips a few questions ahead but what are the zoning laws for the new location?
DS: Zoning laws, so we are actually we are in commercial, commercial zoning because we are so close to Chippenham we've got a hotel across the street and a hotel behind us as well, there's a Korean barbecue place used to be a Red Lobster behind that was a Kmart, this is not residential zoning so when it comes to like noise violations the only thing we could get would be potentially from the the Motel 6 behind us but with Midlo and Chippenham right here it's at almost impossible for a sound issue. So zoning we’re in commercial zoning right now so it makes it easier on us with sound, the old location we were in residential zoning while we were allowed to be a restaurant because every night club has to be a restaurant that’s one thing everyone in Richmond needs to learn- there's no such thing as a club, there’s no such thing as a bar, they’re all restaurants, unless they have a separate room, Mi Hacienda is like that, they’re a Mexican restaurant that you have a nightclub inside, Tobacco Company that got the club downstairs, Infusion as well, the list goes on. Ah yeah we’re in commercial zoning right now and you know we're right off of two major roads.
JS: So, you mentioned a little bit about how the zoning laws differed from the old location, just as someone who doesn't know all about zoning laws what's the difference between commercial zoning and residential zoning? Especially when it comes to the club atmosphere?
DS: Sound, 100% with sound. If you remember at the old location people were very very adamant about keeping the doors, backdoor work closed is because from the edge of our parking lot you could throw football and hit someone's house. Clubs are very loud. Someone asleep in their house at 2 in the morning, they can call the police and make a noise complaint about the about the club which is starting to raise issues not just in Richmond but in places all throughout the country. Miami's having a huge issue right now, parts of Berlin are having major issues because of the essentially nightclubs and sound in residential areas. So for us we’re lucky here, we’re in a commercial zone versus a residential zone but the last place that's why we had to be so careful about cutting down on sound that got out, anything we can do to soundproof the place, the concrete buildings played a key key key role in that, but when it even came to insulating the back doors at the loading dock which are still facing a neighborhood, insulating that better which know is obviously better air conditioning and heat helps cut down on sound getting out which means people complain less, at the same time you’ve got to deal with cars, people leaving, drunk people being loud, those are more reasons for people to complain, if someone complains more police officers show up. It can just escalate situations.
Segment Synopsis: David explains the zoning laws in the new location vs the old location.
Keywords: Mexican; Richmond; commercial; nightclub; noise; police; residential; zoning laws
Subjects: Richmond; commercial zoning; laws; noise complaints; residential zoning; zoning
Partial Transcript: JS: So what are the benefits of the new location?
DS: The benefits of the new location, so we are again off some major roads, Midlo and Chippenham and Chippenham, Chippenham is Parham Road once you cross the bridge, that’s all it is, you can get to Parham Road straight from River Road. For me essentially I can leave my neighborhood at Parham and Mainland, go straight and turn off at the exit and I'm right here or right off off of and it's in Chippenham’s not even a highway, Chippenham’s a 45 so that's something else people got to remember, so it's very easy it’s very easy for me to be able to get into into here and see it's very easy to get people in and people out and it's almost a straight shot to campus, there's actually a very big developing area mostly on that side but things are coming this way, there's also going to be doing off track betting and gambling building that they are going to be building at the old Kmart that is almost right behind us as well, and infrastructure wise there are a lot of things here that are very advantageous just for what we do.
JS: so when you said that side, that side is...
DS: technically Chesterfield, so once you cross Chippenham right here that’s Chesterfield, this side of Chippenham is Richmond.
JS: Is that west or east from where we are right now do you know? Just for people that are listening to this they don't know which way you're pointing...
DS: That’s west, this is east.
JS: So the west side.
DS: Yes the west side...
JS: West from this location.
Segment Synopsis: David talks about the benefits of the new location.
Keywords: Chesterfield; Chippenham; Midlothian; east; west
Subjects: City; Gambling; Location; Outskirts; Richmond; nightclub
Map Coordinates: (37.5013037, -77.5228430)
Partial Transcript: JS: What things do you wish you kept from the old location?
DS: Are you saying things like for me personally or things I could have taken brought- brought here?
DS: Alright so when we-
JS: Oh also like not things that you can't move also count, so like if you wanted to bring the zoning laws, which it seems like you wouldn't want to do, but like anything like that.
DS: Oh man there's there's a grocery list of things, first the damn building, that building great. No I can’t take the building, I did like the police officers we worked with, the guys from Henrico county built an over time a great repore with my staff, were very understanding, worked with us very well, so our police officers were great. Henrico is actually much better to work with than if you can, police don't get me into too much trouble on this one. Henrico country I found is easier to work with than the city of Richmond.
JS: So besides that maybe some of the physical things?
DS: Physical things, so if you guys remember we had those stupid deer heads on the wall around the mezzanine, well it took me 5 years of convincing Carlos from the very first day I stepped into that building to take the deer heads down, well when the deer heads finally came down we had to move out I tried taking one, well it turns out the deer heads were actually owned by the guy that owns the building, so I didn't get a damn deer head after I'd been arguing for you five years to take them down so that's one of the things I wish we could have taken, the trust grid that was above the dancefloor was custom-built, that wasn't, it was completely welded together and then raised up, it wasn’t different pieces that were bolted together, I would have liked to have been able to to keep that and the way our parking lot situation was we were almost surrounded on all sides with really private parking that you couldn't see from the street, really liked that, that was one of my favorite things. And then the toucan painting that was on the back of the stage, one of our door girls painted that herself and we just- there was no way to be able to remove the drywall to be able to take it with us but that would have really meant a lot, but all of the signs on the building we got all of those and things like that.
Segment Synopsis: David talks about the things, both physical and non physical, that he wished he could have kept from the old location.
Keywords: Toucan; dancefloor; deer head; mezzanine; painting
Subjects: El Gran Tucanazo; Parking; Staples Mill; zoning
Map Coordinates: 37.61258, -77.49664
Partial Transcript: JS: So you said you're in commercial zoning, is there like a name to this area that's a zone? I don't know how that works.
DS: Honestly I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, we are south of the river in the city of Richmond, commercially-zoned, honestly I'm not 100% sure how to describe it but I what I can tell you is the business- there is busy a lot of busy- there's a lot of business developing in this area, so there might be a name a reason, something something that was granted obviously Colonial Downs is investing a few million into an off-site gambling facility right next to us, so I'm not- I can't even say I'm 100% sure if there is a name.
JS: So, do, you already talked about the noise laws, but do alcohol, do the alcohol laws differ from this location to last location based on zoning?
DS: No, liquor laws are all the same everywhere in the state of Virginia.
JS: So going into the main point of the project is more of why you decided to move and so I already got the benefits and the not and the downfalls of it but when it comes to the zoning, did that factor into your decision to move?
DS: Zoning definitely factors into our decision. We didn’t decide to move from the old location, when the old location land was sold we had we essentially got kicked out there is nothing we could do about that if we could stay at the old location I would stay there in a heartbeat. But when we started looking into places to start working later that zoning made a huge, huge difference because of what we can do sound, food, getting people to assemble, the ability to acquire a dance hall permit, the dance hall permit is a very very key factor in this, it's like the New York Cabaret laws. By not having a dance hall permit let's say you're hosting a ticketed event and you get lots of people to come out people are raging face having a good time, fist-pumping like champs, and if you don't have a dancehall permit as stupid as it sounds, The police if you they show up and you’re doing some like that, can pull your liquor license now if you have a dance hall permit it does mean that the ABC can show up at any time to make sure you're doing the right things, but you also there's a reason you don't have an ABC agent showing up at Applebee's every other day is because if someone's getting a drink at Applebee's it’s usually just a beer with dinner it's not 190 kids from University of Richmond and a small, dimly-lit bar. You can have the event by having the dance hall permit go until 2 in the morning. So it's a blessing and a curse but if you get caught operating without one, that is a major issue. Acquiring a dance hall permit is not the easiest of things and you do have to be either zoned right or be grandfathered-in one of the lucky things we had at the old building because of what it was for so long, people in that area kind of knew what they were getting into living that close to that building. That’s where places like Miami, Berlin, other places are having issues where they've you know clubs and bars for 20-30 years, well then someone spends a bunch of money to build this high-rise you know, 200 feet away and then the people that are paying $100,000 a year to live in this high-rise start complaining about the sound, well that club was there 20 years before you, you should have known that moving in but at the same time those people are in the right because of the zoning and in sound, noise, noise violations and that raises another issue is when someone does call to complain about sound, do they actually know what they're talking about or they just calling to complain? Because you know we've had at music festivals I've done we've had government officials show up because of a noise complaint and I ask them ‘what is the frequency, do you have a decibel meter, are you measuring in a weight, b weight, c weight, and they often times don't even know what weight they’re measuring in, if you don't know what weight you're measuring in all you know is you have someone complaining calling your department then they're sending you out to go do a thing. It makes things complicated. I personally do own a decibel meter just so I can you know justify and test and go to the lease line with the building you see when the doors open if it is too loud. I had to get one because of the old club. Same thing with you know radios for my security guys, clicker for the door and things like that, just so we were protected, so zoning does completely make a huge difference and it makes things potentially easier if you do have to deal with police, fire, EMS, things like that, even with EMS you know if if for some reason you know let’s say some girl had an allergic reaction to something, we need to take her to the hospital, we can have the EMS come here very easily they know exactly where we are they hit Chippenham next thing you know it's Chippenham Hospital in minutes, so that that does make a huge difference versus you know the old location where you're just taking Staples Mill and Broad Street with 10 million stop lights. It’s a blessing and a curse zoning does make a huge difference, it does make a difference when you're trying to acquire permits, get protection, things like that.
Segment Synopsis: David shares why he chose the current location for the building and why they had to move.
Keywords: ABC; Berlin; Miami; Richmond; Virginia; dancehall permit; hospital; moving; nightclub; zoning
Subjects: Richmond; dancehall; moving; permits; zoning
Partial Transcript: JS: So when we talked earlier you said something about clubs disappearing in Richmond,
DS: Oh, yeah, it’s an epidemic.
JS: So I just wanted to hear more about that.
DS: We’re losing clubs in Richmond right now left and right some of it is because, like Tobacco Company for example they’ve been a Richmond Club since the 80s but when Tobacco Company caught on fire in the kitchen they had to close, so they lost that. Infusion had a shooting, Hat Factory years ago they had multiple ABC violations from underage drinking and that’s one that they'll pull your permits immediately. There is one case where an owner of a venue got a DUI and if you are if you own a liquor license for a venue and you get a DUI you immediately lose it, business is shut down period, like done. Have a Nice Day Cafe had an ABC violation where they got shut down, this is probably about 8 years ago at this point, they got shut down because they weren't serving food. Because technically they're not a club they were a restaurant, so they ran into an issue, there are other places that got in trouble for smuggling liquor and that's like let's say you go to Maryland where you can buy gallons of vodka cheaper than you can get it here because they have privatized liquor sales in Maryland, it’s not an ABC store, it’s a liquor store, when we buy liquor for the bar we have to pay a mixed beverage tax on it so let's say you can buy a gallon of Fireball for what you can pay for two bottles in Virginia, that drive to Maryland then you start refilling your bottles you know selling it you increase your profit margin by smuggling in booze from other states, some places did get in trouble for that but it's been a lot of it's either a shooting or an ABC violation that will shut you down, or some type of violence something-or-other someone you know a big fight, someone getting stabbed, things like that, I’ll say this though, no nightclub is in a good area period. You will never find a nightclub in a good part of town just because the good parts of town are either one too expensive to be able to do that or you run into issues like Miami with sound. So yeah we're losing clubs left and right and it makes my job hard, Cabana rooftop they got noise violations because you know while the other 20 stories up that EAW Avalon sound system really really kicks and when you bring in your Cedric Gervais and Elefante there’s only so many things you can expect to happen. Off the Hookah ended up closing for a myriad of reasons so we're losing places left and right and some of it I would have to say has to do with with zoning and with ABC laws.
Segment Synopsis: David talks about the history of the nightclubs in Richmond and how many of them have closed down.
Keywords: ABC; DUI; Richmond; closing; club; epidemic; food; illegal; liquor; nightclub; noise; smuggle; violation; zoning
Subjects: Richmond; nightclubs; violations
Partial Transcript: JS: So if you were to build like the perfect club let's just say you have unlimited budget but it has stay in Richmond, where would it be that’s probably more important, but you also have to the zoning laws don't change.
DS: Oh, ok so if I move to Scott’s Addition it's still essentially residential, well some of it’s commercial, it depends on like what you’re doing, if I had to pick- now am I able to clear some space to put in a parking lot or I just like the existing building.
JS: Let’s just say parking is not an issue. This is really just for the location of where it's best to have, where you're going to get people to come, you're going to have a kind of safe area, I don't know if that's going to be as possible but also you're not going to have as many violations possible, let’s just say parking doesn't matter so like if it's in the city it’s ok.
DS: Actually I would say Shockhoe Bottom and it was one of two places either what used to be Have a Nice Day Cafe on 18th Street, it was a huge building we can hold over a thousand people we could run two separate clubs had a mezzanine, so imagine the old Tucan but with all of this on top of it, so we had a third floor that was it’s own private club and what was the old Tucan mezzanine wrapping around the dance floor.
JS: So by private clubs you mean like was it a membership club?
DS: No it was not a membership club but let’s say I wanted to throw an event there, bring my own crowd, charge separately at the door and they would do their typical Friday Saturday night thing in the main room, we could do that we could run as two separate places but one venue is making an-
JS: So that was Have a Nice Day Cafe?
DS: that that was it was a really great spot it was on 18th Street as well as what was the Hat Factory building or the Lady Bird Hat Factory building right there on the canal walk, absolutely beautiful, great patio they had the Off the Hookah upstairs and in the 2000 person, they said 2000 people I don't know if it was actually 2,000 I know I’ve personally played for 1,500 people there and that was more like stuff like the National, phenomenal space, great sound system, great lighting but there was access to lots of parking now you you had to walk a little bit but there were parking decks you spend 7 bucks but you don't have to worry about you know someone breaking into your car, they got lights, cameras and a security guy there, there was parking behind it, both spaces did have a loading dock, loading area both spaces had multiple kitchens, multiple bars, lots of power in the infrastructure to be able to do what you needed with proper zoning, so yeah I think those were two really incredible places, the other one that also comes to mind is what used to be Aurora, Third and Grace Street, I think its a brewery now, also solid space, sound was good, lighting was good but that area is starting to turn into a little bit more residential, but they at the same time have some really nice restaurants, Hammock is right there, Pearlie’s is right there, there Carpenter Center, whatever they're calling it now is right there so it's a really you get a lot of foot traffic there and you get a lot of foot traffic through the Hat Factory area because it's Shockoe slip so ChaCha's is near there as well as Society or Gave Lounge or whatever they're calling it, so that was a big club area for a long time was 14th Street to 18th Street from Franklin to Grace Street now really really hopping part of town and then I'd say that’d the best but Shockoe bottom at the same time it's not becoming the best neighborhoods you’re running into issues it's never been good they've always had issues with shootings there the demographic you want to come to your club is never the demographic that has lived in that area.
JS: Speaking about that, probably the last question is like this location compared to the old location you said it was more residential than the old location but how much do you know about like economically the types of people that are around here that are going to be coming to these events?
DS: So the one nice thing about the nightclub industry is if you are able to host a good event people will travel people travel I mean how many times have you seen someone travel to DC for a show or travel to Virginia Beach for a show, people will will travel but you have to give them a reason to travel. The people in this area this area is very a strong Hispanic Community granted that almost everywhere there is a strong Hispanic Community these days, I say that in no harm, this is not an expensive part of town necessarily but it’s also not a poor part of town. There's a strong Spanish and well like, this way is a large Spanish population we do have a large African American population and then there's also a very large middle class white demographic where there I don't know exactly how you want to want to call that because there are some wealthy neighborhoods in this part of town as well you know places that I would say are you know 10 minutes away or less you know if you put it into a 20 mile radius. You have to remember we’re still real close to the river, and any of the property anywhere near the river is you know is good money so you know I can’t talk about median incomes because it’s such a wide variety, I can get you that information if you would like-
JS: I'll have that information also.
DS: You can look at the zip code or whatever. So yeah!
JS: So that’s all I have, thanks for letting me interview you!
DS: Absolutely man, thank you for having me!
Segment Synopsis: David responds to a question about how he would build his ideal club.
Keywords: Richmond; Shockoe Bottom; club; commercial; economics; location; noise; perfect; residential; salary; zoning
Subjects: Richmond; Shockhoe Bottom; location; perfect club
Map Coordinates: 37.53208, -77.42878