November 17 2004, 1:16 PM
I believe the saying is more akin to silk purses and sow's ears, but turning a blue mule into a velvet lounge ain't far removed. So much for The Blue Mule, the self-proclaimed "lowest of Lodo" basement bar and music haven where Brendan's Pub once existed at 16th & Market. Brendan's moved into a bigger space up the street, but the Blue Mule - along with its weekly local music schedule - is a goner. This Friday, the new incarnation, The Velvet Underground, opens its doors for the first time in the space. Owner Jeff Arnold (he also owns the Pour House with his brother) told me today that the basement has been seriously spruced up, with velvet curtains, custom leather booths, and modish stainless bar stools. But he's not planning another uber-lounge. He says he plans to book bands that play crowd-friendly cover tunes to keep the vibe casual and mainstream, and the 4-7 p.m. sing-along piano bar happy hour will surely scare away the self-conscious downtown hipsters, making way for the average janes and joes to settle in comfortably. And just to show how un-ostentacious the new space is, this weekend is neither a soft opening, grand opening, or official kick off. They're just opening, sans the usual fanfare. I'll admit, I'm curious. And I think if you're going to name your bar after one of my favorite art-rock/alternative/ahead-of-their-time bands ever, you had better make it good. I'll bop down this weekend to check it out and see if the "improvements" are genuine, or if they've killed the kinda groovy brick-basement ambience from before. But I do hope they've fixed the one thing I always hated about that space, whether it was Brendan's or the Blue Mule. Anyone else ever smell that nasty sewer scent that wafted around the bar area? Guess it's common to old Lodo basements, but still. Seriously nasty. This is one of the few bars that really should never consider going non-smoking. The Velvet Underground opens Friday at 4 p.m. at 1624 Market St.