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Sneak peek at the Waiting Room - PHOTOS

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

We’re in a time of transformation for live-music venues in Western New York.

The city was deeply saddened when Mohawk Place shut its doors, and when Williamsville’s Club Infinity closed due to financial struggles, concert-goers were left to the Town Ballroom, Soundlab, Sportsmen’s Tavern, Nietzsche’s and Williamsville’s The Forvm as the primary live-music spots in WNY.

When Funtime After Dark—a collaboration between After Dark Entertainment’s Chris Ring and Funtime Presents’ Donny Kutzbach—announced it would open the Waiting Room, it wasn’t the easiest decision for the local promotion duo who attracted concerts to the Outer Harbor last summer, especially given the city’s entertainment and financial climate. Still, the void left by Mohawk Place needed to be filled.

“It’s a little terrifying to open a venue up when you see a bunch closing,” Ring admitted in a phone interview yesterday. “Looking at it with the glass half full, however, this definitely gives us an opportunity.”

The Waiting Room opens April 1—Dyngus Day—for Polar Bear Club, a show presented by After Dark Entertainment. The old Sinful Nightclub, 334 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, is in undergoing feverish renovations in preparation for the opening date.

Sinful will officially transition to the Waiting Room on Monday, and signage will be posted on the exterior facing Delaware Avenue beginning that morning. The Waiting Room will have access to the 70-space parking lot behind the building as well, which is free after 6 p.m.

The location was desirable to Funtime After Dark for two reasons: its proximity to both the Allentown and Chippewa entertainment districts, but also its separation from the two as well.

“It’s not as off the beaten path as Mohawk Place was,” Ring added, “but it’s still a destination [set apart from the nearby districts].”

For the month of April, the Waiting Room will only be open on dates when shows are scheduled, but May marks the beginning of the venue’s debut on non-show nights.

Three TVs line the wall across the top of the bar, and a welcoming lounge area was under construction during my visit.

There’s potential for a chef to be hired to prepare and serve food—a kitchen sits toward the rear of the building—but Ring says a final decision has yet to be made on that front.

Construction inside concludes by 5 p.m. today (Saturday), and as you can see from the photos, much of the progress was already complete by Friday afternoon. Instead of hiring a construction company to complete the setup, Ring and Kutzbach entrusted several musicians who are contractors by day to handle the work.

For instance, I Can See Mountains guitarist Justin Tartick brought his design talents to the group, while uber-handy-man Keith Szygiel, who also performs with Canary Girls, crafted the main stage, the box office and more.

Mohawk Place sound expert and Chosen Ones guitarist Neal Brodfuehrer had his hand in the renovations as well. Town Ballroom’s staff has lent a hand, too.

Through these contributions from blue-collar workers who double as influential local musicians, the Waiting Room has been pieced together in haste without sacrificing quality.

The connections between the old Mohawk Place and the Waiting Room run even deeper, as the new venue will include Mohawk’s PA system and lighting rigs, while former Mohawk Place bartender Erik Roesser will satisfy patrons with a munch more expansive liquor and beer selection—but also familiar comforts like Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders and Genny Cream Ale.

While a new soundboard is needed—a major digital upgrade, we’re told—much of Mohawk’s equipment was surprisingly still in quality condition.

Simply put, the Waiting Room is set in a breathtaking space, as Sinful Restaurant and Nightclub co-owner Susan Riggi—who still owns the building but has agreed to shift it into the music venue—invested a hefty chunk of money into the building when she opened her restaurant-bar in March 2012—$500,000 is the rumor.

When Sinful underwent a brand shift in Oct. 2012, it struggled to find a niche as a catering spot and nightlife attraction between Chippewa and West Tupper. When the opportunity arose, Funtime After Dark pitched the idea to Riggi—who accepted.

“It’s a beautiful room,” Ring extolled. “Still, it was almost too nice and too clean—we’ve had to rock ‘n’ roll it up a bit,” he added with a laugh, then later remarked how beautiful the bathrooms were—a stiff departure from Mohawk Place. You can see the awesome wall decor pictured to the right.

Ring didn’t express concern that Sinful’s demise would negatively impact the Waiting Room’s prospects, as he emphasized the difference between the two crowds.

“There are no preconceived notions about this space from rock ‘n’ roll fans,” Ring explained. “That crowd hasn’t experienced this venue, and there’s no reputation for it yet.”

A smaller stage in the middle of the long venue—which is still roughly twice the width of Mohawk Place—will accommodate acoustic singer-songwriter showcases that attract smaller crowds, while there’s ample room for a larger crowd in front of the main stage.

Capacity is 450 people, almost three times the size of Mohawk Place.

Indulge in Buffalo’s newest music venue this week, as the Waiting Room has not left us waiting for long.

TAGGED: after dark entertainment, chris ring, donny kutzbach, funtime after dark, funtime presents, indie, live music, sinful restaurant, the waiting room

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