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After a half-decade absence from the Vancouver music scene, the Cobalt is about to return to the city as a live-music room. Following an extensive round of renovations that has seen the installation of everything from a new dancefloor and bar to an updated PA, the Main Street bar reopens December 16 with a bill featuring garage punks the Vicious Cycles, along with Little Destroyer, Remple and the Rousers, and Your Man Flint.
In an interview with the Straight, Cobalt spokesman Simon Fallick says the room has been rebuilt to bring it up to code.
“The room has been completely rebuilt from the ground up,” he says. “So it’s about 10 times better than what it was.”
The Cobalt was shuttered in 2018, along with the hotel that it operates out of. The city demanded the closure, citing structural concerns such as sagging floors, mould, water damage, and rotting wood. The building, a low-rent SRO, was also overrun with rats, cockroaches, and bedbugs.
The return of the Cobalt started with a new group, RBI Construction, purchasing the hotel and bar from the previous owners, the Sahota family, earlier this year. One of the first jobs was restoring the bar, which had been gutted and sitting derelict.
“When I saw it four years ago there was no floor,” Fallick recalls. “The room had been pulled apart so that there was nothing there. There’s a fairly significant basement underneath the Cobalt, and support beams and a whole of bunch of other things were needing work and repair and reinforcement. So they had to take everything out in order to that work. When it was all done and you walked into the room there was nothing there—the bar, stage, and everything was gone.”
The new Cobalt features other upgrades as well.
“The whole acoustic setup in the room has been completely redone,” Fallick says. “To me it’s probably the best-sounding room of this size going in the city. There’s been an acoustic treatment applied to the ceiling that makes the room sound really, really good, and a new PA.”
The Cobalt is reopening under the continued guidance of a team that includes Patrick Drozd, who ran the room for much of last decade. The focus will solidly be on live music. A former strip club that was re-purposed as a punk and metal bar at the beginning of the decade, the Cobalt then opened itself up to all formats under Drozd and his partners, shows ranging from outlaw country queen Nikki Lane to indie upstart Lucy Dacus to Toronto noise merchants Metz.
“The Cobalt is going to be, in a lot of respects, how it felt at the end of the last  run,” Fallick says. “I thought, the last year the Cobalt was in operation, that it was for my money the best venue in the city. It was getting all the up-and-coming acts coming through, and everything from metal shows to indie folk to Japandroids doing four nights in a row to the best LGBTQ+ parties in the city. Anyone and everyone was in there doing stuff. The plan is to bring it back to that.”
The reopening isn’t the only big Cobalt news. Fallick notes that talks are currently underway to turn the room over to a new owner, with plans moving forward continuing to put the spotlight on live music.
“I can tell you that, under the group that’s coming in, that it’s going to be a live music venue first and foremost,” he says. “It’s going to be very similar to what it was when it closed in 2018. The focus will be on the best up-and-coming touring acts, and the best local musicians. It will be continuing to build a really solid 250-300 person room that is accessible to everyone. That accessibility always been the strength of that room, and it’s what is going to continue to make it successful.”