It's a strange scene, "like something you'd see in a movie," Kathy Zimmer says.
Blackened rubble slopes up and over where the lip of the stage used to be. No roof means tilting your head up and confronting open blue sky, brutal sun lighting the place in a way the glory days of the dim Golden West never knew. The wooden floors are fine. An untouched blue can of linseed oil sits atop a blackened circular bar table. A rag soaked in that oil was blamed for the fire.
Zimmer and Mayor Chavez give a press conference in front of El Rey.
After the fire on Thursday, Feb. 28, Zimmer turned El Rey into a not-for-profit corporation, sending the documents to Santa Fe and achieving that status on Monday, March 3. This will allow her to schedule noncommercial events, acts with artistic or educational value that aren’t necessarily big moneymakers, she says.
Anderson says the integrity of his business is collapsing because he's unable to help booking agents. "They're frustrated with us. They don't understand. They say, Building next door burnt down? Too bad. When are you going to open? Why can't you pay my band?"
The Launchpad, which passed a fire inspection the week before the Golden West's fire, won't have power and gas back until next week. Anderson's been in his venue every day since the Fire Department allowed him back inside, cleaning and trying to get things going again. The west wall collapsed into the Launchpad, and now there's about six feet of wall missing, he says. Smoke and water damage is stinking up the place. The light and sound systems were soaked.
Zimmer's been calling for the community to back her up, to donate cash to funds set up at the Bank of Albuquerque. She estimates it would take less than $500,000—but somewhere in that neighborhood—if she chooses to rebuild the Golden West. El Rey could be operational as early as March 20, but only if permitting goes easily and enough community volunteers come to pitch in with cleaning soot from the walls, Zimmer says.
"Well, when you have insurance, depending on how poor you are, you have big deductibles. Insurance is not what it's cracked up to be, believe me," Zimmer says.
Anderson says he's been paying big fees for business insurance for years. On top of that, his landlord also had insurance on the Launchpad building. His employees should be receiving partial checks when those payments begin coming in. "Everyone seems to think we're totally covered and we're going to be fine." Plans are in the works for Launchpad to build its own west wall so any construction in the Golden West lot won't interfere with Launchpad's business.