At Strange Matter, a troubled venue finds its groove

Danielle Elliott

Staff Writer

Campus mainstay Strange Matter has seen surprisingly quick success since it opened its doors last December.

Recently, the venue has been branching out and up, hosting bands like Hawthorne Heights, emo superstars of the early 2000s, on Feb. 5.

The building itself has been host to multiple failed venues, such as The Nancy Raygun, Twisters, and Bagel Czar.

Just over a year ago the name was changed, the keys handed over to new owners, and Strange Matter as it is known today came to fruition.

Sarah Orr, the current manager, has been working at Strange Matter since its previous ownership. “It started as Bagel Czar’s failure and blossomed into the wonderful place you see today.”

The new owners turned the defunct Bagel Czar around in less than a year to bring new life into the building.

“We were trying to get the venue back up on its feet and it just wasn’t working out,” Orr said. “The owner of Bagel Czar closed after like six months and then the new owners (Jen and Bobby) decided they were going to try and get their hands on the building and they did.”

Bagel Czar closed in March and Strange Matter was open by December.

Due to the history of the building, Strange Matter had a fairly rocky start.

“People didn’t realize we were actually open, since you never really know with this building. Then getting an ABC license and some good shows (was hard),” Orr said. “With any new place it takes a while to get regulars and get the word spread.”

The city of Richmond was also a major struggle for the new venue.

Ron “Baby Angel” Rogers had been at the venue since its inception and knows its struggles just as well as Orr.

“When we first opened we weren’t allowed to have shows,” Rogers said. “I guess we commissioned the city enough times they eventually caved.”

“In general the city keeps a really close eye on this place,” Orr said. “We’re not allowed to dance. It’s legally not permitted to dance in here. I don’t know if that will ever change.”

Orr and Rogers have strong feelings about the venue’s past and its future.

“I didn’t pay attention to Bagel Czar for the longest time when it was here,” Rogers said.

“The whole thing was terrible. The management was terrible, it wasn’t well thought out, and the owner didn’t understand the history and what it meant to people,” Orr said.

Both Orr and Rogers are passionate and optimistic about the direction that Strange Matter is headed now.

“I think people view this place in a very positive way. Especially after Bagel Czar, which was a total disaster,” Orr said. “Everyone that works here cares about it. We’re all personally invested in its success and I think that shows. People respect the place and respect what we’re doing.”

“One blog said ‘I went into Strange Matter and everybody there is just stoked to be there.’ When you come in we just want to be your friends.” Rogers said.

Orr isn’t concerned with the apparent curse of failure the venue has previously seen.

“I think we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, getting people to support the venue and keep it going. It’s (the venue) changed owners so many times,” Orr said. “It would be nice to keep a solid place where people can keep coming … since it’s been so turbulent in the past few years.”

Louis Cyrtres is relatively new to the staff but not to the venue. He and his new coworkers share the same feelings about their jobs and the atmosphere of the venue.

“It’s absolutely crazy. It’s really fun. I’ve been here 100 different times for shows and loved it,” Cyrtres said.

“Every day is kind of an adventure here,” Orr said.

“The shows are great, obviously the shows are why we’re here, but if you just want to hang out when we’re not having shows that’s cool too,” Rogers said.

Strange Matter is located at 929 W. Grace St. They are open Monday-Friday 8 a.m  to 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. CT

Check out an exclusive interview with Hawthorne Heights’ guitarist, Micah Carli on

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