COLUMBIA – The new co-owner of a downtown nightclub once known as Athena that was renowned for its fights, noise and liquor law violations hopes a philanthropy event this Friday will be a big step toward gaining a positive reputation for his new business.
The club, called Memoir Ultra Lounge, opened in the building at Locust and Hitt streets that was once the home of Athena Night Club, which closed 15 months ago. Athena made headlines after several violent incidents, including a January 2008 fight that resulted in two MU basketball players being arrested, charged and convicted for their role in the brawl. A total of five players were suspended after the incident.
Where: Memoir Lounge, located at the corner of Hitt and Locust street
When: 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday. Dinner will be served from 6 to 9 p.m.
Admission: There is no cover charge, and all proceeds from the event will go to the American Red Cross Mid-Missouri Chapter, the Ronald McDonald House and the Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity.
For more information on “Philanthropy Friday” or the Memoir Ultra Lounge, call (573) 256-2011. Details can also be viewed by adding “Memoir Columbia” through facebook.com
Several months after the fight involving the MU basketball players, the owners, Daniel Veros and Rashid Kikhia, lost their business license and closed the doors of Athena, according to previous Missourian reports.
Vinay Atluri and Brian Colebrook opened Memoir on May 1. Atluri, who has a T-Mobile kiosk in Columbia Mall and is a partner in a sports apparel company in Canada, has been in Columbia less than a year. He said that he had long wanted to open a bar and liked that the old Athena location was ready to go.
He’s eager for people to know that the new club has an atmosphere completely different from Athena.
“We can’t do the same thing and expect a different outcome,” Atluri said. “We’re trying to send a strong message saying, ‘Hey, we’re not Athena.’”
Atluri said that he and his staff have made several important changes to the club to promote safety and responsibility.
“We have six security personnel that all have a military background of some sort,” Atluri said. Some of the security will extend outside the club to make sure there's no trouble outside, he said, and all staff members undergo a background check.
"And we’re strictly enforcing the dress code,” Atluri said.
The dress code includes: no baggy shorts, long belts or chains, sunglasses, hats and tennis shoes on men, he said.
The club will play hip-hop music as the Athena did, but it's part of a "very versatile" mix of music, Atluri said.
"We don't want to be known as a hip-hop club," he added.
He said the business has been doing pretty well, but he wants to raise its profile and make sure it’s not associated with Athena. So, Memoir is hosting a fundraising event called “Philanthropy Friday” to benefit the American Red Cross Mid-Missouri Chapter*, Ronald McDonald House and the Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity.
Shannon de Leon, director of development and communication at Ronald McDonald House, said the club’s owner approached her with the idea of the philanthropy event on May 20.
“The Ronald McDonald House is often approached by local business owners that are interested in holding external events to raise money to support its programs,” de Leon said. “We rely heavily on these community fundraisers to assist families of children receiving treatment at area medical facilities. Mr. Atluri generously offered to generate funding through his 'Philanthropy Friday' and donate a portion of it to our charity.”
Atluri said that the event won’t benefit anyone on the staff of Memoir, including himself. All of the proceeds from the event will go to the three organizations.
“The entire staff is working for free that night. We’re keeping the cost of sales, but all of the proceeds will go the organizations, including the bar tips,” Atluri said.
Atluri said that one of the purposes of the event was to show the community that the establishment is responsible and enjoyable.
“You don’t have to pay premium price to be seated comfortably,” Atluri said. “Come see it for yourself; experience it; then it’s up to you."