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The Dakota Lounge team (L to R): Mark Erman, Tania Zikos, Alex Fiegelein, Brittany Ramos and Jason Ryczek.Ê (photo by Dakota Lounge)

WILSHIRE BLVD — After a devastating fire in July of 2010, the Dakota Lounge is back in full swing as it prepares for its grand re-opening this Saturday.

Despite the fact that the fire almost completely destroyed all of the space, the Dakota team has been working diligently to reach this point, and is proud to present a new and improved venue for live music on the Westside.

Alex Fieglein originally purchased the space from the owners of Temple Bar in 2008.

“It was a live music venue for a very long time and we wanted to continue that legacy,” Fieglein said. “Over the few years that we operated we focused on up-and-coming acts; people that were on the verge of breaking through.”

The Dakota Lounge has seen and supported artists such as Bruno Mars, Foster the People and Janelle Monáe through its early stages. While Fieglein does not focus on one specific genre of music, he searches for a certain “level of talent” in regards to the artists he presents.

The fire began on July 6, 2010 between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Although the fire department officially declared the cause electrical of unknown origin, a six-inch gash was found in a pipe where the power came in. However, due to the extent of the damage, those at the Dakota Lounge will never know for sure what sparked the fire that decimated their beloved venue.

“It was one of the worst calls I’ve ever gotten,” Fieglein recalls. “One of my bartenders called me at 5:15 in the morning, and I thought he was joking. I rushed down here, and it was completely devastating.”

Although one may wallow in sadness after an event like that, Fieglein felt differently. Despite his anguish, Fieglein tried to look at the fire in a positive light, and instantly aimed at a better, brighter future for the Dakota Lounge. After tearing down the space to nothing but four walls, the team set to work preparing plans for new designs and taking a hands-on approach toward the process that would ultimately take two years.

“It took us around four or five months just to complete the phase of planning … ,” Fieglein said. “We wanted to give people an even better experience at Dakota than they had ever had before.”

Aside from changes to design, color scheme and menu options, the Dakota Lounge is newly equipped with technological advancements intended to improve sound quality and accommodate the abilities of aspiring artists.

“Ultimately I want everyone to know Dakota is back and better than ever,” said staff supervisor Brittany Ramos. “Better food, better music, better atmosphere, just an overall great place to be on any given night of the week.”

In addition to providing a space for live music, the Dakota Lounge now opens with a new studio capable of releasing multi-track recordings directly off the sound board. The Dakota team will also offer a live, multi-camera crew filming in high definition for every performance.

“We really want to align ourselves with new artists and offer whatever we can to beat the price on anyone else’s studio offerings,” Fieglein said. “Yeah, it’s still a business and we still want to make money, but I want to give new artists the opportunity to do something that still fits their budget at this stage in the game.”

Although Fieglien was involved in much of the process himself, he gives credit to his team.

“Everyone has highs and lows in their business. So when you hit your tough times you want to take care of your family,” Fieglein said. “They [the team] are my family. I feel very blessed to have been able to find the team that I did, and I couldn’t have done this without them.”

As opposed to trying to book a big name act for the first night, the Dakota team thought it more important to re-establish the type of music that people can expect on a consistent basis. Following the past few weeks of a “soft-opening,” Peanut Butter Wolf, a DJ with visual art, will close the grand opening on Saturday. Based on the fan support throughout this endeavor, Fieglein is delighted to restore this venue.

“There was a time where it seemed like there was never going to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Fieglein said. “Now we’ve come out of the tunnel and I feel that we have a great place. I’m excited to get it in motion.”

news@smdp.com

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