COLUMBIA — The former home of the embattled Athena nightclub is under new ownership that says it will open a new club there, this time geared to a more affluent crowd.
The new club, which will be called Memoir, will cater to professionals, said Brian Colebrook, one of the business's owners.
"I'm going for a mentality. I'm not going for a demographic, not a crowd, not an age — professionals," Colebrook said.
Colebrook and his business partner, Vinay Atluri, are trying to overcome Athena's specter of violence, which lingers after the former nightclub on the corner of Hitt and Locust streets was forced to shut down after a series of violent incidents.
Colebrook acknowledges that the location carries a stigma. Janice Finley at the Columbia Business License Office asked Colebrook what kind of music they would play. Finley said she was assured that the music would be "versatile," and Colebrook looks forward to, among other things, poetry nights, professional networking events and jazz bands at Memoir.
"Everybody just really wants to be sure that you're not going to do the same thing," Colebrook said.
Atluri said everybody at the city has been cooperative and things have gone smoothly so far.
Athena was the scene of a fight between MU basketball players and two workers on Jan. 27, 2008, when former MU guard Stefhon Hannah’s jaw was broken in front of adjacent Nikai Mediterranean Grill. The club's owners, Daniel Veros and Rashid Kikhia, told the city in a Feb. 12, 2008, meeting that they would "no longer operate as a nightclub."
Veros and Kikhia, however, continued to open the club at night, and a late-night shooting outside the club left one man injured on May 18, 2008; the business license office revoked their licenses in May 27, 2008. Kikhia and Veros appealed the revocation and withdrew the appeal on June 25.
Atluri, 35, said he searched for Athena on Google and realized what he would be dealing with. He said he's not worried about other people's expectations because his are much higher.
Memoir will have a dress code and "we won't bend on it," Atluri said, adding that most of the club's security staff has a military background and that employees will get criminal background checks.
Although the venue has had problems in the past, Finley said she was not worried about the new nightclub.
"I don't see any reason to be concerned at this point," Finley said. "It is a totally different ownership, so we'll see how things go and hopefully, it will be a reputable business."
Atluri said they aim to open the club the first week in May.