Ready to rock and laugh, North Adams? Say hello to HiLo

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NORTH ADAMS — The doors will swing open next month to a new live music and comedy club — though the facade might not be quite ready for prime time.

The HiLo North Adams is set to launch Sept. 6, at the site of the former Crystal Hardhat Saloon at 55 Union St. More recently, it housed the short-lived Museum of Dog.

"It's good enough for rock 'n' roll," said co-owner Brian Miksic, who also noted that everything inside will be done and ready to go with a brand new sound system, restrooms and full bar. There will be enough room for a stand-up crowd of more than 200 or a seated capacity of 100 in the showroom, with a separate room of cafe-style seating for a more intimate setting. And on the nights there is no show, it will double as a neighborhood bar.

The exterior soon will be returned to the wood siding that graced the building in the 1960s when it was a Quinn's Paint and Wallpaper store. The siding will be painted a dark gray with white trim and the entrance lined by finished maple.

The interior will be darker-colored, drawing the focus to the entertainment, Miksic said. The structure was built in the late 1800s, and has since been expanded and altered several times.

The name of the club comes from a defunct paint company that once supplied Quinn's. The building previously had served as a bar starting in 1903. It became a paint store when Prohibition was enacted in 1920.

Co-owner Glenn Maloney, who co-owns the development firm Very Good Properties with Miksic and Dr. Orion Howard, said the company bought the former dog museum building from David York for $99,000 in November. The team is investing an additional $200,000, plus sweat equity, to do the renovations.

It's a good location removed from most residential areas, Miksic said, with great parking and visibility, close to downtown, and big enough for a variety of uses, including live music.

"All of us realized this just makes sense," Miksic said.

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The plan, he said, includes installing a 1,500-square-foot apartment on the second floor for bands to stay in while they're playing at the club. The front door will allow the band to load its equipment directly to the stage from the truck. And the design allows direct access to the stage from the upstairs apartment.

"We want to make this as attractive and friendly to the bands as possible," Miksic said. "I want them to want to play here."

The river-facing decks on the first and second floors will be restored to functional use at some point, Miksic noted.

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"I always wondered how it is that a two-college town doesn't have a live music venue," he said, referring to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College in neighboring Williamstown. "It just doesn't make sense to me, and it's something I've always wanted to do."

Joad Bowman, the owner of Thistle & Mirth in Pittsfield, will lease the building and operate the venue, offering craft beer and wine on draft, in cans and in bottles, and previously mixed cocktails in bottles.

"This is going to be so fun," Bowman said, dodging workers as they moved around the showroom and bar. "They got so many details right — the best I've seen so far."

Tres Ninos, a new burrito/taco eatery, will serve food, prepared at the restaurant's Marshal Street location, from a custom-made warming station at the club.

Entertainment will include live music, comedy and any other manner of entertainment suitable to the venue, including burlesque.

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While the area features a venue for bigger acts at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and smaller places for more intimate, low-key performances, the HiLo team believes the new venue will fill a void in between for bands that regularly perform in clubs throughout the Northeast.

Very Good also will run its offices in the western section of the building, But the best part is saved for last — the third floor.

It was once two apartment units, and has remained largely untouched since the 1960s. Maloney noted that his grandmother once lived in an apartment on the third floor in the early 1900s.

Miksic said he looks forward to turning it back into apartment or condo space. But that will have to wait as the team finishes getting the live music venue ready to roll.

Howard, who also owns and operates Bright Ideas Brewing at Mass MoCA, said the plan is brilliant. With a building that carries no debt, the team can run two businesses, with one of them leased out, and eventually have some rentable living space on the third floor.

"In the end, everyone wins," he said.

And once HiLo is open, Miksic said, "you won't have to go out of town to see a rock 'n' roll show."

Scott Stafford can be reached at or 413-629-4517.


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