Tuxedo Junction, the long-vacant former concert facility in downtown Danbury, is looking to get a new lease on life.
The city has opened a request for proposals and will host a walk-through of the nearly 7,000-square-foot space at 3 Post Office St. on Oct. 29.
“This is one of a number of projects that we’ve been working on,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. “We felt this was the right time for us to open the process. November is relatively quiet, so we have the time to prepare the right kind of lease document and budget for what we need.”
The city bought the building for $395,000 in April of 2017 following relatively brief negotiations with owners Ron and Rick Jowdy. “It’s a small project, but it’s something that can have a big impact,” Boughton told the Business Journal at the time, indicating that he hoped it would continue life as a live-entertainment venue that would seat up to 350 people.
The mayor said that while he feels the building is still suited to such use, “We’re open to other suggestions and ideas. This is a public/private partnership. Somebody could come along and say, ‘Let’s make it a comedy club’ and we’d say, ‘That’s an interesting idea.’ It could be a performing arts center or something else. There are a number of different uses it could have.”
Built in 1920, the space has a total of 6,890 square feet available, 6,616 of which is on the first floor. According to the Danbury Assessor’s Office, the ceiling heights on the first floor are 12 feet. Not included is the Tuxedo Junction bar, whose entrance is at 2 Ives St.
The property opened under the Tuxedo Junction name in 1985, hosting concerts by Joan Jett, Stephen Stills and Oasis, as well as shows by local bands. But it closed in 2013 after then-owners Al Caccamo and Michael Roviello decided to get out of the business.
Tuxedo Junction was then acquired by 21-year-old Ian Bick, who went on to have several run-ins with the law ranging from charges of second-degree mischief to selling alcohol without a permit before ultimately receiving a three-year prison sentence in October 2016 for operating a Ponzi scheme that authorities said had cost investors some $500,000. The club was shuttered soon after sentencing.
In its RFP, the city said it is willing to negotiate lease terms with the to-be-determined tenant, either providing a below-market rental rate or a market rental rate with capital improvements made by the city prior to occupancy. The tenant will be responsible for all utilities and insurance, and will be required to name the city as an additional insured.
Bidders must provide $1 million in general liability insurance, $5 million for excess liability and workers’ compensation in accordance with state law. In addition, if alcohol consumption is to be allowed on the property, $10 million of liquor liability is required.
“They could rent it for a dollar a year if they’re doing their own improvements,” Boughton said. “We’re not looking to make money off it. The city only needs to break even.”
The mayor opined that the property “needs some work, no question, but not a lot to get it into shape” if the eventual tenant decides to keep it as an entertainment venue. If the tenant decides to renovate it for other uses, such as office space, the costs would be considerably more, he said.
Interested parties are requested to submit five copies of their proposal to the Office of the Purchasing Agent, Charles Volpe Jr., by 2 p.m. Nov. 21. Bids must include a letter of interest outlining the proposed use of the property; a business plan for its use, complete with rental and capital improvement costs; proof of insurance; and a demonstrated ability to acquire any necessary financing.
Bidder interviews will be conducted on or about the week of Dec. 3, with identification of the most qualified respondents made the following week. Awarding of the project will take place around the end of this year or the beginning of 2019.