Opening a new nightclub brings with it a raft of headaches. So does opening a bar and restaurant. Trying to do both at the same time? Well, that’s just crazy. For the people behind Arc Nightclub and Lounge, the new Fenway area night-life destination that opened earlier this month, it’s been a lot of long hours of behind-the-scenes setup, but the payoff is about to arrive.
“The whole point of an arc is it’s a burst of energy,” explained Randy Deshaies, the nightclub’s manager, while giving a tour of a back room behind the bar. Like a kid getting ready to show off his toys, he was fiddling with the mixing boards in the newly installed DJ booth, then hustling over to lower the lights in the room.
“This has been a lot of work,” he said later. “Way more than I anticipated.”
The space, which was until recently known as An Tua Nua, needed a complete overhaul. The owners, who also own The Phoenix Landing in Central Square, wanted to move away from the Irish-pub feel of the space, and they entrusted the job to Deshaies, who has worked with them since 2002 in a variety of capacities, from marketing, promotions, and bookings, to DJing at the popular Re:Set Wednesday nights at Phoenix Landing. None of that, however, prepared him entirely for everything that getting a club up and running entails.
“I totally feel like a kid,” Deshaies said. Albeit one with a lot of homework. “First of all, this is my dream job. I’ve been wanting to get on this side of the business for a long time, so when they came to me with the idea of changing things over here, they pretty much said, ‘OK, we want a change, we want to do this, how do we do it?’ ”
He laid out a plan, including three major improvements that needed to happen in order to turn the space from an underused afterthought into a natural for the local electronic music scene.
“Right off the top I was like, we have to make it so it doesn’t look like An Tua Nua anymore, we need a new sound system, and a new DJ booth — those were the first three things.” It was hard for area DJs to promote nights there without those upgrades, Deshaies said.
Casey Rankin, one half of the quickly-rising electro-house duo Case & Point, reinforced that sentiment, admiring the layout and changes to the club. “I used to throw parties here and we used to have to bring sound reinforcement, people would come expecting big sounds. Now it sounds great, it’s a big improvement.”
Matthew McNeill, a.k.a. DJ Mr McNeill, is another Boston-scene staple who’s stoked on the overhaul. He performed at the opening party, and will be hosting a night called Fourplay going forward at Arc.
It’s not just the looks of the space that are changing, McNeill pointed out. “Arc is aiming for a clientele with a more sophisticated and refined taste in dance music,” he said. “Just look at some of the upcoming bookings: Derrick Carter, John Tejada, Konrad Black, Santé. These are cutting-edge talents that regularly play all over the globe. We will get the chance to see them here in Boston at a low cover in a venue that doesn’t hold pretensions.”
That no-pretension part is a big draw, unlike a lot of the other nightclubs in the city where you might expect jacked-up prices, dress codes, or attitude.
On top of that, Deshaies says, the focus is about discovery — including for the bar, where, for many clubs in town, it’s typically impossible to get a good cocktail, made with quality spirits. Added bonus at Arc: no plastic cups.
“If we can get some of these kids to try other things, for me, that’s a winning situation right there,” bar manager Rick Brust said.
That aim plays into the theme of the whole place, Deshaies added. “We’re trying to turn people onto new stuff,” he said. “Music that’s not going to get played at Ocean Club, but it’s still interesting. Cocktails you’re not going to have at your local bar.
‘Right off the top I was like, we have to make it so it doesn’t look like An Tua Nua anymore, we need a new sound system, and a new DJ booth — those were the first three things.’
“We’re trying to change the culture around here,” he went on. “We’re getting away from $2 shots and $1 draft nights. We don’t want to cheapen ourselves.”
Deshaies ducked back behind the DJ booth to give us a feel for the club. The room went dark, the sound erupted from the speakers, and just like that, for a crowd of three onlookers, the space turned from a handsome back room bar into a throbbing party. You could almost see the bursts of energy.
For schedule and more information go to Facebook.com/ArcNightclub.
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Earlier versions of this story gave the wrong titles for bar manager Rick Brust and nightclub manager Randy Deshaies in the photo caption.