Replay owner to open new bar in former La Tasca

The volume of music venues may be turning up in downtown Lawrence.

Lawrence bar owner Nick Carroll recently confirmed that he had plans to open a bar and music venue at the former La Tasca location at 943 Mass.

Carroll said he hoped to open Jackpot Saloon and Music Hall by mid-February. The business is the second new music venue planned for downtown in the past two months. In November a group of Lawrence investors announced plans to convert the Scottish Rite Temple, 1001 Mass., into a venue for touring bands, wedding receptions and other live performances.

Jackpot will have three to five live shows per week of varying musical styles and feature disc jockey music on the other nights, said Carroll, who also operates the Replay Lounge, 946 Mass.

Carroll said the number of music venues planned for the downtown area was a sign of a rebound in the Lawrence music industry.

“I think there is a resurgence going on,” Carroll said. “The music scene was a lot stronger in the early 1990s, and then it took a couple of hits. Now it is getting built back up.”

Jerry Johnson, a partner in the group seeking to buy the temple, agreed.

“I think there is a renewed interest,” Johnson said. “The economic issues of the past few years have been huge. Entertainment spending is one of the first things to go when the economy starts to go bad, and that has hurt the music scene.”

Carroll said he believed Jackpot would fill a niche as a medium-size music venue in downtown. He also hoped that its unique decor would make it stand out.

The business will be modeled after a late 1900s saloon, complete with an 1870s Brunswick pool table and a 1902 piano.

“We want this to be a place that you would have found in downtown Lawrence in the late 1870s,” Carroll said.

Johnson said he thought his plans for the temple building would work because the downtown area could use another large music venue with an upscale environment.

“Our niche will be that we can offer a show that demands a room the quality of Liberty Hall, but possibly wouldn’t sell enough tickets to play a room as large as Liberty Hall,” Johnson said.

The temple building is expected to accommodate concerts of about 500 people. Liberty Hall, a longtime music venue at 642 Mass., can accommodate about 1,000 people.

“There is going to be enough business to go around,” Johnson said. “That’s my opinion, and that’s what I’ve heard from the promoters.”

Tim Griffith, general manager of Liberty Hall, said he was uncertain whether downtown was ready for a new large music venue.

“Sometimes competition breeds success in this business because bands think a town is a more hopping place if it has a lot of venues,” Griffith said. “But I think somebody will probably feel it.”

Griffith, though, said there was a definite demand for more venues that accommodate wedding receptions. He said there were only about five locations in town that could accommodate a wedding party of 150 people or more.

“Everybody wants a Saturday, and there are only 52 Saturdays a year,” Griffith said. “I’m turning people away all the time.”