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Published November 30, 2007, 12:00 AM

Center of entertainment

The $2 million renovation of the nightclub complex formerly known as Playmakers is more than a facelift. It’s more like a separation surgery.

By: Dave Roepke,

The $2 million renovation of the nightclub complex formerly known as Playmakers is more than a facelift.

It’s more like a separation surgery.

“People will be shocked,” said Jon Taffer, president and CEO of Starmark Hospitality, which manages the facility.

After closing down earlier this month with a mock funeral for Playmakers, the vast entertainment center opens to the public tonight.

Now known as The Hub, the building will be home to seven separate bars, clubs and restaurants, Taffer said, each with its own distinct theme and decor:

- A sports bar in the center area called The Fan Club Grill and Sports Bar.

- A country bar called Cadillac Ranch in the spot that used to be the House of Rock.

- An “Asian pub” called Forbidden, on the west end of the second floor of The Venue.

- A rock-themed club called The Monkey Bar on the north side of the second floor of The Venue.

- Prime, an upscale steakhouse that at

10 p.m. switches over to a lounge with top-shelf liquors and jazz.

- A dance club called Vibe at The Venue on the main floor of the concert hall.

- A scaled-down, shrimp-and-wings-only Hooters will open in mid-January next to the Bottle Barn in the entrance hallway.

Taffer said the entire complex would be nonsmoking.

The compartmentalization addresses what Taffer – who was hired by Playmakers about a year ago as a consultant and is staying on to manage The Hub – saw as Playmakers’ greatest weakness.

“Nothing had integrity,” Taffer said during a tour of the renovated spaces Thursday afternoon. “It had a sameness mentality.”

In other words, customers didn’t know what to expect of Playmakers’ different spaces on any given night.

Taffer said he believes that is reason the complex – which opened in 1991 and has spent about $8 million on renovations since 2004 – “never made money.”

Sameness won’t be a problem with the new joints, each of which is walled off and soundproofed from the others. The genre-specific clubs will have live music once a week on set nights, said Tiffany Olson, director of marketing and public relations for The Hub.

“You will never hear rock and roll here,” Taffer said as he walked through Cadillac Ranch, adding “You’ll never hear Madonna in here,” as he showed off The Monkey Bar, a jungle-themed rock club.

All of the new rooms will be run as separate business entities, each with its own employees, general managers and budgets, Taffer said.

Patrons will pay a cover at the facility’s front door – ranging from $1 to $5, Olson said – and will be free to roam from club to club.

Some of the new clubs will have tie-ins with local radio stations. DJs from Froggy 99.9 FM will broadcast from country shows, and the sports bar is named for 740 AM The Fan.

Dan Hammer, sports director and sports-show host for Radio Fargo-Moorhead, will do his noon to 2 p.m. show at The Fan Club each Tuesday, as well as for special events –Monday’s men’s basketball game between the Bison and the Gophers, for instance.

It’s a great opportunity for the station, Hammer said.

“We can give our listeners a chance to feel like they’re a part of the program,” he said. “They have more of a sense of ownership if they can participate.”

The Venue will continue to bring in regional and national performers, but will be more selective. Most shows will be 21-and-up and all of them will be over by 10 p.m., Taffer said.

“Now the concerts will revolve around the nightclub,” he said.

Song selection in the clubs will be controlled by a central computer system, Taffer said.

“Our music formatting is tighter than a radio station,” he said. “There’s very little in this building left to chance.”

If the multiple-clubs concept takes off, Starmark – a firm formed by Taffer, former Playmakers general manager Kerry Fernholz and complex owner Lee Swanson – may try to open similar facilities in other secondary markets, Taffer said.

Olson said the clubs will be unveiled at the grand opening tonight starting at 7 with the sports bar. Another will be opened at the top of every hour through midnight.

If you go

- What: The Hub grand opening

- When: 7 tonight

- Where: 2525 9th Ave. S.

- Info: No cover; ages 21 and older.

For more information, call (701) 232-6767

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535 Center of entertainment Dave Roepke 20071130

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