Iconic Calgary bar, the Back Alley, is making a return engagement.
Later this month it’s set to become Calgary’s newest mega-nightclub and will be located at the site of the previous Marquee Beer Market and Stage. The Marquee closed October 31.
Former Back Alley operator Dennis O’Neill and long-time DJ Jim Turner are behind the club’s comeback at the 15,000 square foot location at 4630 Macleod Trail South.
Turner said the original Back Alley was modelled after a Dallas, Texas bar Doug and Dennis O’Neill launched. That one was literally made to look like a back alley – complete with dumpsters, broken down cars and a fire escape up a brick wall. They’re going to try to bring back that legendary personality, with the modern feel and décor that came with the Marquee.
“So it’s going to be sort of a more upscale version of the back alley, but at the same time, we still want to appeal to everyone from local celebrities to Joe-Q lunch box that just wants to come down and have a beer right and not feel judged and not feel like you’ve got to put on a suit to get in the door,” Turner told LiveWire Calgary.
The Back Alley return idea blossoms…
While it was still the Marquee, Turner would go back on occasion to DJ for the Back Alley reunion nights the club held. That’s where it dawned on him that there’s a future for the city watering hole.
“I just saw the enthusiasm and excitement and thought, you know, if you re-did this and updated it, I think this concept still work in this city,” Turner said.
“With having coming out of a bad economy and some tough times in the oil patch, we just think it’s a good time to have something positive in the city, and timing wise and we feel it’s perfect.”
Patron safety a priority: Turner
Turner addressed the bar’s past safety record, when asked about the sight of a Calgary police van regularly parked outside the previous Back Alley’s doors. He said they always worked closely with city police and door staff to diffuse matters before they became serious incidents.
“If that means that we’ve got to call the cops and send somebody home or send somebody downtown where we won’t hesitate to do that. We want to have an active relationship with law enforcement,” he said.
Door staff will be well trained, IDs will be scanned and Turner said they’ll keep a close eye on who’s in the nightclub.
“We don’t want people to not feel safe when you’re in our premises. And that includes going out to the parking lot,” he said.
“Our mission is to work closely with door staff with law enforcement, and with everybody involved, to make sure that this is the safest place to come in the city and the nightclub industry.”
Prepping for Back Alley opening night
They haven’t yet nailed down an opening night for the new Back Alley. They’ve got big plans for a light show, sound, video and they want to iron out any kinks. Turner said it’s likely Nov. 22 or 29.
Grumman’s Delicatessen will have a location on site, with a full menu, and they’ll be open for live music on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays – just like the old days.
They want Calgarians to enjoy the blend of the old and the new.
“They’ll feel like it’s a place they can go leave their cares and worries and stresses at the doors and just let their hair down for a few hours and have some fun,” Turner said.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
If you’re interested in details, find the Back Alley on Facebook and Instagram.