The Broadberry: Giving Richmond a much-needed mid-sized music venue

The Broadberry will accommodate 350 people, a big enough space to attract regional and national bands on tour who would otherwise skip a stop in Richmond.

After spending hours brainstorming a name for their new music venue, the Broadberry’s owners found it literally on both sides of them.

“We’re between Broad and Mulberry streets,” owner Rand Burgess says. “We just looked at each other and were like ‘The Broadberry!’ and high-fived. That was it.”

Burgess, owner of music venue The Camel, and Lucas Fritz, the Camel’s Events Manager have teamed up with Matt McDonald of Joe’s Inn to open The Broadberry, a mid-sized concert and special events venue located at 2729 W. Broad Street, the former NU Nightclub space. The space used to be Much More and the Cellar Door before that. Both of these spots were popular hangouts in the 1980s and integral to Richmond’s music scene–bringing in such names as Pat Benetar, John Prine and the Ramones.

The Broadberry will accommodate 350 people, a big enough space to attract regional and national bands on tour who would otherwise skip a stop in Richmond because there simply wasn’t a big enough space for them.

“There were so many times we had to say no to a band because the Camel was too small,” Burgess says. “Now having two places gives us that opportunity to say yes more often.”

“Those bands were too big for the Camel but weren’t quite big enough for a space like the National yet,” Fritz says. “They needed something in between. A mid-sized venue is something Richmond has been lacking.”

The Broadberry is equipped to host concerts with a state of the art front of house sound system. There’s a raised seating area with small tables along one side of the space with chandeliers hanging overhead. In the back of the venue sits a large stage with an on-stage monitor system and lighting rig. Along with that, there’s also a new draft system installed at the wall-length bar that will provide 24 beers on tap. And don’t forget about the sizable outdoor patio.

The idea for the venue came to fruition when Burgess began dealing with the city and the Camel’s special use permit, which was put in place by the venue’s previous owner. Because of the limitations the special use permit had, the Camel had to stop playing music at 11:00 PM on weekdays. That was costing Burgess money.

“I began looking at alternative spaces to either move [the Camel to a new space] or find something different to open,” he says, adding that moving “was never a real possibility.” Burgess says he loved the Camel’s location and wanted to get the special use permit issues worked out, which, he says, is a slow process.

But knowing how the Richmond music scene was growing, Burgess also felt there was a need for a bigger space.

“Richmond is undergoing a cultural revolution right now,” Burgess says. “I’ve been to places where people say the music scene is awesome, and they don’t have anything on Richmond. You can literally see live music seven nights a week. There’s always something going on here.”

The Broadberry has the ability to host live music seven nights a week, but at least for the moment, it’ll be more show-specific. Burgess and Fritz plan on taking a look at festival circuits to get bands in. The owners say that the new venue will definitely have a commitment to the local music scene by having them as opening acts to bands that will span all styles.

“It’s going to be similar to how the Camel is,” Fritz says. “We’re not going to be a jazz club, we’re not rock club, we’re not going to be an EDM club. We’ll touch on everything.”

Another top priority to the owners of the new venue is a solid food menu. The Camel’s executive chef Xavier Beverly will be teaming up with McDonald to develop the Broadberry’s menu.

“The food should never be second to the rest of the business,” Burgess says. “It’s a restaurant, so there should be good food. We want to put out a solid plate of food for people so they’ll want to come back and eat. I don’t want anybody here to feel like they have to walk over to the McDonald’s across the street.”

And while the full menu is still under wraps, the trio says it’ll be mainly American cuisine such as burgers and sandwiches that will be simple to eat while enjoying the music.

“We want people to have the ability to eat it with your hands while standing and watching a show,” Fritz says. “Good food and not fried garbage.”

There’s a ton of fear and anxiety in opening a new space, everyone admits, but there’s also a stronger sense of excitement.

“With the Camel, we had limitations and built the place slowly into a musical destination over time,” Burgess says. “With this place, we want to have everything going into it right away.”

“I think the smaller venues like the Camel, Balliceaux, or Emilio’s can be an incubator for local and regional touring bands, and when they get to a certain level, they can start playing at the Broadberry before filling up the National or bigger venues after that,” Burgess says. “It’s a natural progression for bands to take.”

“People are just gonna have fun,” Fritz says. “They’ll see bands they weren’t able to see before. I think people will fall in love with the space.”

The grand opening of The Broadberry is Thursday, April 17 with No BS! Brass Band, Black Girls and Goldrush and on Saturday, April 19 with the Silo Effect, the Former Champions, the Polychrons and a special guest that will be announced the day of the show. Tickets are $10 for each night and can be purchased on The Broadberry’s TicketFly page. Doors are at 8:00 PM for each event, but the venue will open at 5:00 PM.

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Andrew Cothern

Andrew Cothern is the founder and editor of RVA Playlist, a music site that showcases events, concerts, album, show reviews, and opinion pieces that focus on the vibrant local music scene in Richmond.

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