The Recher Theatre, a Towson concert venue that opened in 1996, will soon become the Torrent Nightclub, according to co-owner Brian Recher. The Rec Room, an adjoining bar and restaurant, will also become part of the nightclub.
The move drew immediate criticism from Baltimore County Councilman David Marks. He defended the Recher Theatre last fall after a downtown-Towson melee and said Wednesday that he was unaware and "extraordinarily disappointed" that the concert venue was switching its format.
The exploding popularity of electronic dance music (including dubstep, house and other variations) in recent years partly drove the change, Recher said. He also said it no longer made sense to compete with larger venues in the area, such as Rams Head Live and Merriweather Post Pavilion.
"We're going to change up and convert it to a nightclub," Recher said. "That's where the trend is leading."
The current lineup of shows scheduled through March will still occur, Recher said, but afterward, the venue will focus on primarily booking DJs and other electronic dance music acts.
Recher, who co-owns the venue with his two brothers, says the family has discussed a possible transformation for years but committed to the change 18 months ago. While the theater wasn't in danger of closing its doors, Recher said, sales were "definitely down."
"You have to change with the times," he said.
There is no opening date yet for Torrent Nightclub. Recher says he initially hoped to have it open in April but "that's impossible" now. The current plan is to open "as fast as possible," Recher said.
Last May, the first step in the transformation began, as construction started on Torrent Lounge, which Recher describes as the "VIP area" of the nightclub. The lounge quietly opened shortly after Christmas, and has done strong weekend business so far, he said. There was no official announcement online about the change, according to Recher.
The Torrent Lounge's opening came a little more than month after the Recher family negotiated an agreement with the Baltimore County government that absolved the venue of responsibility for a high-profile crowd disturbance in September in which a man was shot and seven others arrested. The incident stemmed from an overcrowded private event at the Recher Theatre held by the Theta Mu Mu fraternity, but took place outside the venue.
Recher denied the incident played any role in the decision to rebuild and rebrand the old theater.
"We'd been looking to do this for years," Recher said.
Councilman Marks, who defended the venue last year after the melee, said he had not been notified that the concert venue was switching its format.
"If community leaders like myself are going to defend the Recher Theater, then I think we'd be owed more of a heads-up when there's a change of this sort," Marks said.
While the Recher Theatre's owners have a "very good reputation" in the Towson community, Marks said, this "significant" change will likely be met with concern from the community.
"People are going to be worried about hundreds of kids flowing outside of this this theater at night," Marks said.
Marks says he's already discussed his concerns with another community leader — Paul Hartman, president of Greater Towson Council.
"There's apprehension," Marks said.
The Recher Theatre has long booked a wide range of music acts, from pop-punk to rap to metal. Recher rejects the notion that the venue's transformation to a nightclub is a business move to chase a musical fad.
"I was born in '60 and came up with rock 'n' roll," Recher said. "Disco was a fad. This is here to stay."
The new venue will operate like an "upscale" nightclub, Recher said. There will be a dress code, but management has not made a decision about including bottle service.
The final show at Recher Theatre will be Tall in the Saddle's benefit show on March 30.