The former Buster's music venue on Manchester Street in Lexington recently was sold for $1.1 million to a trio of Pikeville businessmen. Renovations are underway on what will become The Manchester Music Hall. The current plan calls for doors to open in early October, with a grand-opening concert in November. Adam Hatton will be in charge, and he shared details with Tom Martin.
Martin: Who are the new owners?
Hatton: There're three of us. Myself, Adam Short, and we work for a gentleman, Mitch Potter from Eastern Kentucky. I'm from Eastern Kentucky as well. Adam Short is from Louisville. I'll be day-to-day operations. And we have hired LexEffect, Kaelyn Query and her team as our booking and management.
Martin: Why Lexington and this particular location?
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Hatton: After I graduated high school at Pikeville, I went to school at Eastern. I started working in the restaurant industry and many years later got connected with Mitch, who is really big in the mining community, owns quite a few mines around the area. We decided we'll go to Pikeville and put in a restaurant. Now, we're working on our second restaurant there. In the midst of all this, I saw this building and fell in love with it and showed it to Mitch. He immediately checked it out, fell in love with it, fell in love with the area, and we pursued it. We lost it twice initially and then it kind of fell into our laps. So, it was meant to be.
Martin: A lot of people are saying that Lexington has new energy going on in it. Did you pick up on that?
Hatton: Absolutely. The vibe in the Distillery District is phenomenal.
Martin: $1.1 million, that's a big investment for a venue in Lexington. Is there sufficient financial support to sustain the music venue?
Hatton: We think so. We think it's an up-and-coming area. You know, it's going take a while to grow, but we're very confident in the area and in Lexington. The music crowd here is booming, and we want to give people a place to go.
Martin: After seeing this building and thinking about what could be, are there any models out there or other venues around the country that you've looked at, or is there some concept that you have in mind that would give people an idea what they're going to find?
Hatton: We've been researching all the other mid-sized venues around the United States. We're trying to pull things from each one that we like. We hope to be at the level of (Louisville's) Mercury Ballroom and some of the others around our area, eventually.
Martin: And what are some of the things that you think make for a good venue, from both the consumer perspective and from the artist standpoint?
Hatton: Consumer, you know, it's hospitality. That's the business I'm in. I'm here to make people happy; give them what they want and give them a good time, and we want to make sure they do. That's what the hospitality industry is about: good, quick bartenders; excellent wait staff; and good service. We want people to have a great time. For the artist, we're going to have a nice place. We're going to have the best sound system we can at this time and we'll continue to upgrade it as artists play there. They're going to give input, and we're going to listen. We're going listen to what our guests want and what our artists want.
Martin: Are you doing anything prior to the opening to change the sound system or add acoustics or anything like that?
Hatton: Yes. Actually, the old Buster's, they took everything out. We were left with an empty shell, which is really kind of what we wanted — to make it our own. We have Branham Productions out of Eastern Kentucky coming in with sound. We've got a really good working relationship with them being personal friends with Mitch since they were kids. On top of that, we have painted the whole building inside and out. We're dressing it up, giving it a face lift.
Martin: And you're going to do something about the parking lot?
Hatton: We are repaving the entire parking lot. It will be lighted. It may not be as soon as we open. Give us a little bit of time. We'll get it lighted. We want it to be a safe atmosphere for everyone.
Martin: The capacity for the whole building is about 1,100? Do you envision any seating or it is gonna be standing only?
Hatton: We're weighing our options. We really want the front to be high-top tables. We do have a VIP area that we're going to construct and see how it works out logistically. We may eventually do another front-of-stage VIP area with seating. We may do seating along the walls. Like I said, we're going to play to our guests and see what they want.
Martin: What kind of programming do you anticipate? I understand that you're going to do your best to book a pretty consistent string of national name-recognized acts and mixed in with that, local and regional talent.
Hatton: That's kind of Kaelyn Query's job and I really let her fly with that. She's done really well so far. She's booked a whole bunch of wedding receptions already. She is working on a couple of national acts, and I know she's got some local guys ready to play. We want to play to everybody.
Martin: Are you going to be programming music every night or just on, say, Thursday, Friday and Saturday? Something like that?
Hatton: We really want to move to where we can do it every night of the week. We'd love to be open, you know, 5 and 6 days a week. Absolutely. It's just a matter of growing it to that point. When we're not doing something big in the back, we do want to do something in the front. Our bar is going to be open all the time when we don't have private events and so on.
Martin: I take it that your business model is going to rely somewhat on events other than straightforward music events.
Hatton: Oh, absolutely. I want to have festivals. We're going to hit it from all angles.
Martin: So, if somebody wanted to book the hall for perhaps an art exhibit or maybe some sort of business retreat during the day, they would contact Kaelyn, would they?
Hatton: They would, LexEffect. You can go to our website, Manchestermusichall.com. The phone number is (859) 230-5365 We're also on Facebook.