What it took to get the Launchpad back on its feet
By Marisa Demarco
It was anything but a vacation, says Joe Anderson, operator of the Launchpad. "There were people that were making remarks like, Yeah, well, at least you'll have some time off," he says. Launchpad had its doors shut from the time of the neighboring Golden West's fire on Feb. 28 until happy hour on July 1. During those four months, he and some of his coworkers were working 10 times harder than usual, Anderson says, moving already-booked shows to other venues and overseeing renovations to the space.
Golden West owner Kathy Zimmer did not return Alibi phone calls inquiring about what is to become of the Golden West’s space.
After all's said and done, Anderson estimates $200,000 was spent putting the Launchpad back together. Some of that cash came from his pockets, some from the building owners and some from insurance companies. "People ask me, Well, why were you closed for so long?” he says. “It was just a bad time. We got struck by lightning, basically. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time." The wall shared by the Launchpad and Golden West was destroyed in the fire. "If we could just put the bricks back and open back up, that would have been one thing." Instead, the fire department informed Anderson that he would have to install a new fire suppression system, including a sprinkler system and alarm. The wall was rebuilt entirely on Launchpad's property. Because of the expense, Anderson says, "We came very close to bagging it."
Permits were re-opened and closed, inspections were conducted, and through it all, Anderson says he wasn't bringing in any cash. "We ended up losing so much money," he says. Moving shows was hard to do, but integral to keeping up relationships with booking agents, he says. Some never found a home and were canceled. Some agents said they might sue the venue because of a canceled show. "It's not like I get a vacation now," Anderson says. "I gotta go back and do some damage control." He'll never work with some agents again, he says, because of the way they behaved.
Before the fire department told him otherwise, he thought his business was going to be closed for just a few weeks, so he started booking again. "It's just the nature of my business," he says. "Being down for that long is totally detrimental to the profession." Agents would call and ask what rooms are available for a certain show, and Joe says he cringed at telling them "nothing" because there wasn't anything suitable. Without the Launchpad, there was a gap in Albuquerque for bands somewhere between smaller-draw touring acts and the kind that can bring in enough fans to fill Sunshine Theater, a room Anderson also books.
Forty to 50 percent of the bands planned for the Launchpad couldn't move anywhere else, Anderson says. "We got a lot of shitty e-mails, like, Why didn't you move that show to the Sunshine, you assholes? Production costs $2,000 at Sunshine, and I can't do that for a band that's going to draw 70 people."
On the plus side, Ralli's Fourth Street Pub and Grill asserted itself as a feasible venue, and Anderson intends to continue to book shows there. "We've been able to establish a symbiotic relationship with them," he says. Additionally, some bands were enjoying Moonlight Lounge, the small venue attached to the Sunshine Theater. Though he says the space is a "little awkward" and needs some tweaking, if all goes well, Anderson's considering remodeling the space. "You'll be seeing more bands there."
Moving shows wasn't lucrative, and only two managed to actually make money. Anderson was forced to lay people off because he wasn't generating any revenue. Happily, all the employees have returned, he says. Funds from a run of "Launchpad Brand Linseed Oil" T-shirts (linseed oil was the cause of the Golden West fire) have gone to out-of-work Launchpad employees, along with money collected at benefit shows held in other spaces. "The fire situation kind of galvanized the family feel of the Launchpad," he says. "I got everybody back, and I'm stoked. I love my staff."
Visit launchpadrocks.com for a list of upcoming shows.
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