The Boulder Outlook Hotel has won the Blues Foundation’s 2013 Keeping the Blues Alive award for a club — the only recipient in a nationwide contest. It’s bittersweet news, since by 2014, the hotel will most likely be demolished and converted into student housing.
“We are under contract to sell to a private group,” says hotel owner Dan King, noting that the deal is not yet final. “Their plan is not to put a shovel in the ground probably before 2014.”
King expects the deal with Austin-based American Campus Communities (ACC), a publicly traded company with more than $4 billion of outstanding shares, to close by the end of the year. The Outlook property would mark an expansion of ACC’s holdings in Boulder; the company already operates Bear Creek Apartments and University Village at Boulder Creek.
In the meantime, King expects to operate the hotel and its blues venue on an interim basis until 2014.
“We know we’ll be here for at least another year,” he says. When asked why the time was right to sell, King said, “Because people started offering us enough money. That’s frankly it. The price started going up.”
The Blues Foundation offers the Keeping the Blues Alive award to one club across the nation each year. In a press release, the foundation said, “The Boulder Outlook Hotel is an intimate, 120-seat room, which has presented the finest blues talent to its customers. … In recent years, the roster of talent that has played at the Outlook is a who’s who in the blues.”
King and a number of investors purchased the hotel in December 2002. In 2005, the hotel began hosting live music. Now, there’s music five times a week or more at the hotel, with an emphasis on the blues.
King doesn’t know whether he will look for another venue to operate. It was always a effort of passion, not business, for him, he says.
“I don’t make much money doing music here,” he says. “It really is about the love of the music and supporting the community.”
But the music side benefitted from the hotel’s business, King says. Musicians traveling from coast to coast could stay at the hotel and perform a show or two right next door. By offering a place for major acts to stop in for a few days, the hotel was able to attract major names, such as Tommy Castro and Janiva Magness, that rarely play in 120-seat venues.
“We’ve been very lucky and fortunate in that because we have the hotel, we’ve been able to get some headlining people that normally wouldn’t play a room our size, but we’ll pick them up on a Tuesday or a Wednesday night when they’re traveling out to California or coming back from California,” King says. “It gives them a break and they get to play a small room.”
As for the future of blues in Boulder, King is upbeat. The Colorado Blues Society also won a Keeping the Blues Alive award, for a blues society, and King credits a healthy local scene in part to the efforts of the society.
“The blues scene, for what it is, has really gotten strong in the last few years. It’s really changed since I started doing it, and since these guys have gotten more active, they have really good leadership out there,” King says. “The number of guys who are out there who are local doing music is just phenomenal.”