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Live Events Are Back at Denver’s Cervantes’ Masterpiece

Live Events Are Back at Denver’s Cervantes’ Masterpiece

Kierstin Rounsefell

October 20th, 2020

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Cervantes’ Masterpiece is a music venue located in Denver, Colorado on Welton Street. This venue has been open since the year 1930 when it operated as a Casino Cabaret and hosted artists including Duke Ellington. Cervantes’ Masterpiece itself was born in January of 2003. The main ballroom is connected to a smaller venue called The Other Side, which usually hosts shows simultaneously so that guests can enjoy both sides of the venue in one night.

The maximum capacity of Cervantes’ Masterpiece is typically nine hundred patrons. However, they’ve had to adjust to current public health ordinances and drop their capacity to only fifty patrons at once. This has proved to be a challenge for Cervantes’ Masterpiece, but not one that they couldn’t overcome. This summer, when Cervantes’ Masterpiece was able to reopen, they threw outdoor patio shows along with new seated and socially distanced indoor shows. These outstanding, innovative shows have been nothing but successful!

Party Guru Productions recently got the chance to chat with one of the owners of Cervantes’ Masterpiece, Duncan Goodman. Duncan told us about getting his start within the music industry, his involvement with Cervantes’ Masterpiece, their current events, and more. Keep reading to learn more about this amazing venue and the exciting events that they are holding!

Kierstin Rounsefell (Party Guru Press): Thank you so much for taking time out of your morning to speak with me on behalf of Party Guru, I really appreciate it.

Duncan Goodman (Cervantes’ Masterpiece): Sure, definitely.


First thing’s first, I just wanted to ask, do I have permission to record this interview?

You do.


Okay, thank you. Cool, so I just wanted to talk about how Cervantes has adapted during COVID-19 as well as what the venue has planned for the upcoming months.

Sure.


First, I just want to start by getting to know a little bit about you. Can you just tell me a little bit about how you got your start in the music industry?

Definitely. I have been involved with Cervantes’ for eleven years now. Cervantes’ has been open for eighteen years. This is our eighteenth year being in operation. How I got my start was kind of by chance, you might call it. [I produced] my first event in the music industry was a four-day music camping festival back in 2009. The event was successful and the realm of it was executed very well. Everybody who attended had a really good time. It went really well.

The event was not successful financially. That was quite the learning experience. [I] would not trade that for anything. From that event is where Scott Morrill, who we worked with on this event, saw our tenacity and our workmanship on this event. There happened to be the opportunity to purchase into Cervantes’ at that same time, or just a little short time afterwards, and we jumped at it. That is the real, super abridged version of that, but there you go.


Okay, cool, thank you. Was Scott part of Cervantes’ already, then? Or, he just also saw the opportunity?

Yes, yes. So, Scott is an original owner. He opened Cervantes’ with Jay Bianchi back in 2003. January, 2003. It was Jay Bianchi who was selling his portion, his percentage of Cervantes’ in August of 2009. We had just hosted our event just before that and that was Scott who reached out to us immediately after that, after this opportunity presented itself and offered it to us, and we jumped at it.


Okay, cool. So, you are listed as one of the owners then, correct?

Yeah, correct. There are three of us, right.


Okay. What would you say your biggest focus is with Cervantes’? What do you get most involved with, with the venue?

My involvement with the venue centers around operations and just running the business, the day-to-day operations of the business.


Cool. Okay, perfect. Thank you. So, I saw Cervantes’ has events scheduled at least through the end of the year. I just wanted to say congrats because that’s something really special for venues right now; a lot of them are still closed. After being closed for quite some time this spring, you’ve finally been able to start doing things. I saw this summer you did some drive-in shows, at least one patio show, and you’re also doing indoor shows now. These have looked pretty successful. How does it feel being able to put on shows again?

Yeah, definitely. All of the above. We were only able to host a couple patio shows and really would have liked to be able to do more, but at the time when we began hosting events here at Cervantes,’ it was late August. The first weekend that we were open was the last week in August and that was literally the only time it rained. It rained those two days, Friday and Saturday, the entire summer. The contingency was to move the shows indoors if anything happened or if there was an issue and those shows were moved indoors.

Pretty much every show since then, at least at Cervantes’, has occurred inside Cervantes’. There are obvious benefits to being on the patio, being outside, but there are also limitations. One of those limitations was space. We have a lot less space on the patio than we do inside the ballroom. A majority of the shows, pretty much all of the shows we’ve hosted at Cervantes’ have been inside. One weekend, one Sunday of patio shows. I look forward to the future and hosting more out on the patio this upcoming spring and then summer. Even once it’s back to normal, I hope that we’re able to continue to host those out there.

Drive-in events, we’ve hosted three of those. Those have been successful and pretty a somewhat common model now that promoters have pivoted to. There are obvious challenges that other promoters have faced and we’ve let them host their events initially and they’ve kind of, at least for us, acted as guinea pigs. [We] picked up on what those challenges were, what we needed to focus on, and we hosted our first drive-in event in September.

A point that I’ll make is that we weren’t super eager to just jump right in headfirst into anything. At the point when there was the opportunity to begin hosting events again, we wanted to do it on our time and wanted to make sure that safety was taken into account first and foremost among patrons, staff, as well as artists, the performers. So, we waited and I’m glad that we did.

All of the events that we have hosted, first and foremost, I can say have felt incredibly safe, and they have been safe. The responses and the reviews we’ve gotten from patrons has been overwhelmingly positive. I can’t think of any negative reviews, but we really go out of our way to make sure that we are leading and/or exceeding all of the guidelines set forth for events, indoor and outdoor currently.


Good, yeah, I respect that you did wait and didn’t just jump back in before you knew everything you were doing was safe and feasible, so that’s cool. I wanted to jump back to the drive-in shows that you first did ’cause I was looking online and I saw that they were in Wyoming, right? At The Chinook?

Correct.


How did you choose that venue, since it’s out of state? I know there’s a lot of other ones that are in Denver, too, that you could’ve maybe used.

Yeah, I wouldn’t say that we chose that venue, I would say that venue chose us. There was a promoter who works out of Fort Collins who has been doing events at The Chinook Drive-In. The Chinook Drive-In’s located at Terry Bison Ranch in Wyoming, just North of the border on I-25. Just South of Cheyenne, essentially.

We’ve worked with this other promoter in the past. They are Blue Pig Presents. We’ve worked with them in the past on a couple various events, I don’t even recall what they were, but there was at least somewhat of a relationship there. So, they’ve been hosting events at this venue in Wyoming that they found and they had some success with it. They reached out to us to kind of help them out, help them promote, just to help them out in general.

We went up there to perform a recon mission to check out the venue, saw that it had the necessary infrastructure already in place. It just made sense for us. We didn’t go in search of a venue in Wyoming, it kind of happened that way. And then, we hosted three of our events up there this summer, the last one being Sunsquabi on 10/10. Nothing else for this season, [but] a potential for more. We’ve got a couple of artists, a couple bands, reaching out about Halloween there, but we decided against it. Too much risk, too many variables, first and foremost, the weather, to consider for late October in Wyoming.


Yeah, I agree. Did you partner with anyone else besides Blue Pig for those?

No, no. It was really just Cervantes’ and Blue Pig. We set up a new LLC. Cervantes’ formed a new LLC just to operate, to produce these events, but that’s pretty common when branching out to a different venue or something.


Cool. Okay, so we’re going to jump back then to the indoor events that you’re doing now. For someone who hasn’t attended one of these indoor shows yet, what can they expect?

Yeah, well it’s a whole different ballgame. We are meeting and exceeding all of the guidelines set forth by the state of Colorado in terms of hosting events indoors. You can expect to purchase tickets as a group and you will essentially, as you are buying a table as opposed to purchasing a ticket as an individual. Two-top, four-top, eight-top tables are available for our events.

When you arrive at the venue, you must arrive with your party, with your entire party. We will not seat an incomplete party. There’s timed entry for parties also where you must arrive at a specific time and then once you arrive, Cervantes’ is essentially acting and operating like a restaurant does. You arrive at the venue and you are seated at your table.

First off, you go through an increased security process. We are taking your temperature upon entry. Our security guards are observing your demeanor in case you might be sick, might be ill. First and foremost, they take your temperature and once everyone has been validated, you are seated at your table and it’s our goal for you not to have to get up from your table at all throughout the performance, other than having to use the restroom.

The bar is open. Our bar staff comes to you now, we come to you, wait on you at your table. We serve you your drinks at your table. People are allowed to get up and dance, they are allowed to get up out their table. We just ask and require that anyone who is up dancing at their table, that they remain within the vicinity of their table, within the direct vicinity of their table. That was one of the challenges we faced initially, was keeping people at their tables, keeping them from co-mingling, and keeping them from wanting to go dance with their friends or dance in front of the stage.

We’ve employed pretty simple methods. Number one is that we’re utilizing stanchions, like you see at the airport security. We don’t have every single table sectioned off, but we have put it up in appropriate areas up around the venue to kind of keep people…and it’s good. It keeps the honest people honest and it’s a physical reminder also. There’s lots of other little differences you’ll see, but those are the main ones right there, though.


How many tables do you have typically during a show?

So, it’s a fifty person capacity we’re operating under currently. It varies between about eleven and thirteen tables kind of depending on how many two-tops, how many four-tops, how many eight-tops.


Okay. Are they all on the main floor, or do you have any up on the balcony at all?

They are all on the main floor. The balcony is just closed. The curtain up around the balcony makes it feel more intimate inside the ballroom.


Okay, cool. I feel like when I was looking at past events, there was one indoor show that had food being served. Is that true?

Yeah, so, we’ve got food available for all of our shows. Actually, Late Night Radio is one that’s being announced, or just announced on Monday, goes on sale, I’m sorry, announced on Tuesday, goes on sale today (Thursday), and that will be another catered event. So, this will be our third catered event. It’s essentially combining a three-course dinner with music at Cervantes’, which have been successful. People have been into them, yeah.


Where is the catering from?

We work with a private chef, a private catering company by the name of Merlin Verrier.


Okay, and then you said you already have food available at every show. Is that just from in-house then?

Correct, yeah. Pass the Peas is our full kitchen located in the back of The Other Side and it is open, it’s just, we’ve got a very limited menu, but it’s open.


That was one of the requirements for a while, at least for breweries and stuff, where you had to have food served too to be open. Was that applying to venues too, do you know?

Yeah, definitely. It still is a requirement and it’s not just serving food, you have to have a food license through the City and County of Denver, which made it difficult on some restaurants, probably venues too. There’s not a lot of venues that are open, but it’s not just easy as just all of a sudden serving peanuts and potato chips. You’ve got to have a food license in order to do that.


Okay. Do you think in the future you’d want to keep doing occasional events with those catered three-course meals?

Yeah, anything’s possible and we talk about it pretty often. I mean, we’re happy with how these seated shows are going and patrons are happy. Patrons are just happy to be back to see live music, but it’s been almost two months or so now since we started hosting events and they’re going really well. I’m really happy with them in general. From safety standpoints, right now during COVID, and just from how intimate these shows are.

So the idea is, I don’t think it would apply to every band that comes through, but once we are back to normal, whenever that is, have a band play play a full-capacity show on a Friday or Saturday and then offer a more intimate seated show, fifty or more people than that, on one of the days leading up to it. Ideally, on an off-day, like on a Tuesday or Wednesday leading up to their full-capacity show. Yeah, we’ve definitely talked about that.


Yeah, I feel like those smaller shows before a bigger one would be definitely successful because there’s a lot of people that do really appreciate the intimate setting anyways, so I’m sure they would buy that and the regular show too.

Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.


Cool. What can Denver look forward to over the upcoming winter months? I know I’ve seen a lot of shows scheduled, at least through December, on your website. Do you have anything else new and exciting planned?

I would say we’re going to stick with what is working right now and you will see more of these seated shows, probably at a higher frequency also. When we were booking them, we started off doing a couple a week, just to figure it out. Later in October, November, December, it will be more like three or four of them per week, on average. That should be the standard moving forward.

Potential to utilize The Other Side also and have shows occurring simultaneously like we’ve always done. One show at the ballroom, one show in The Other Side, and just kind of circle back to where…we didn’t just want to dive head first in from the get go. We’re just kind of figuring this thing out and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything right before we move onto something else and expand, I guess.


Yeah, that makes sense. I was wondering about The Other Side, actually, so I’m glad you brought that up. I was just curious about that. Okay, well, from my end I believe that’s everything I wanted to cover. Is there anything else you wanted to mention that we didn’t go over?

Yeah, absolutely. I definitely want to mention Save Our Stages and just the plight of the independent venue right now, and all the independent venues out there. Cervantes’, I’ve been doing other interviews, and I’ve always reported the same thing. This is going back months, but we will survive, as long as it takes, we will come out on the other side of this. Not all venues can say that. Quite a few are already closed. A couple here in Denver, but definitely, nationally, the list is growing and a lot more will close in the future also.

First and foremost, people can help by going to SaveOurStages.com. Number one, we need stimulus. We need a second round of stimulus. Save Our Stages will tell you how to get in touch with your state senators and representatives. We just need people to get the word out and just scream as loud as they can about this. We do need this second round of stimulus.

Number two is NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) who oversees Save Our Stages, it’s their act. They oversee Save Our Stages, they are the ones who kind of helped get all these venues together, helped to put together this group of venues, which Cervantes’ is a part of. There are over two thousand venues that are a part of.

They’re organizing a giant, virtual concert this weekend with artists performing (note: this event took place October 16th through 18th). Dave Matthews, The Roots, Lumineers, Foo Fighters, Macklemore, to name a few. That’s going on in three days. I’m sure you’re aware of it. Anybody who tunes into that concert, those performances are to help generate a fund for a fund, for a general fund that NIVA has established that is helping venues. It goes directly to venues, especially those venues that are in danger of not being able to survive.


Perfect, thank you. I’ll definitely include that. I advocate for those for sure. Those are really important, especially right now.

Just one more thing, real quick. Save Our Stages is just venues in general and I’d like to make the point that we were the first industry to shut down, and we’ll be the last to reopen. I mean, that is the truth. But, Cervantes’ will be here whenever that is. Hopefully sooner as opposed to later, but no one is holding their breath.


Cool, well thank you so much again, I really appreciate it and I’m glad to hear that you and everyone in the venue is doing well.

Yeah, definitely. I appreciate you reaching out.


Photos by Cervantes’ Masterpiece

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