Casbah to close, reopen as a game bar

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 05:37 PM

Casbah, one of the venues that helped make downtown Durham a place for music, will close as a music venue after the new year to be renovated as a game bar.

Closing Casbah is “a really hard decision,” said Jana Bradley, who co-owns Casbah with her husband Fergus.

She is pregnant with the couple’s second child, and closing the venue seemed like “the best decision for us personally,” Jana Bradley said.

Casbah, at 1007 W. Main St., opened in 2010, about the same time as Motorco Music Hall on Rigsbee Avenue, and about two years after The Pinhook on West Main Street. The Bradleys watched as downtown developed into a music destination.

“Suddenly, Durham went from not being a huge music destination to having three good music venues. … We’re definitely sad to be leaving it, but happy to have played a little part,” she said. “Hopefully, the Durham music scene keeps growing and getting bigger and bigger.”

Fergus Bradley will continue to operate three nearby restaurants – The Federal, Alivia’s Durham Bistro and The James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant. He and two partners will begin renovating the Casbah space, which will be called Social, the first of January. They hope to open the new game bar in March, Jana Bradley said.

“We’ve had a lot of really eclectic performances,” she said. In addition to bands, Casbah has presented several charity arm-wrestling matches sponsored by the League of Upper Extremity Women Wrestlers of Durham. The Hinge Literary Center presented “Professor Diablo’s True Revue,” an evening of documentary art and performance, at the venue.

Mallarmé Chamber Players recently presented its String Jam at the venue, and in 2011 Casbah hosted a benefit for The Scrap Exchange and Liberty Arts that drew contributions from musicians all over the region.

“We liked the venue because it brought in a lot of people who wouldn’t normally come into concert halls,” said Suzanne Rousso, artistic director of Mallarmé. For String Jam, Casbah helped to attract listeners of different ages, and more traditional concertgoers enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere, Rousso said.

“They treated the artists really well. I always appreciated that,” she said.

“I am really sad because the venue really offered a great community resource,” said Ann Woodward, executive director of The Scrap Exchange. “I know that Fergus and Jana are very interested in helping support nonprofits and people who need resources,” and Casbah was that kind of place, she said. “I think its going to be a real loss …. If we needed to have a fundraiser, they opened their doors and said yes.”

Casbah will continue offering events up to and including New Year’s Eve. Among the artists who will perform are Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, The Barefoot Movement and Pavelid Castaneda. Peter Lamb and the Wolves will headline Casbah’s final show New Year’s Eve.