Venues That Rock: The Delmar Loop
By Stephen Lindsley
What was once known as the University City Loop – where the trolley cars of yesteryear reached the end of the line at the Delmar Gardens amusement park – is now known simply as “The Loop.” The trolleys are gone, but the name remains to define an arts, dining and entertainment district that has continued to expand eastward into the city of St. Louis, effectively bridging the invisible (but often palpable) line between city and county.
Today’s Loop dips gently along Delmar Boulevard from the high ground of U. City’s signature lion gates at its western end to the Wabash Metro station at the east. In-between lie 45 restaurants of various styles and nationalities, 18 clothing boutiques (with four more on the way), and 10 music stages offering everything from live jazz to DJ-driven hip-hop and a healthy dollop of good old rock ’n’ roll.
This is according to Joe Edwards, owner of Blueberry Hill, Pin-Up Bowl and The Pageant, and a visionary developer and advocate for the Loop area. The St. Louis Walk of Fame – a Hollywood-style walk of stars along Delmar’s sidewalks – is another brainchild of Edwards’. Currently, he is also working on a large mixed-use retail development, a 120-room boutique hotel and even a revived trolley line along his growing demesne.
Edwards’ initial venture, Blueberry Hill, has grown from a small tavern in a single storefront to a regional institution and mini-museum of pop culture, now occupying an entire block in the heart of the district. Boasting two music venues, darts leagues, arcade games, vintage jukeboxes, extensive comic book, music and television memorabilia collections and regular monthly performances by Chuck Berry himself, Blueberry Hill is a feast for all the senses.
Three private rooms are available for meetings and events at Blueberry Hill. The St. Louis Room is a boardroom-style space decorated with St. Louis memorabilia. It can seat up to 14 people. The room rents for $20 per hour including a personal server, who can bring anything from the Hill’s extensive menu.
The Elvis Room, as the name implies, is decorated with Elvis Presley and rock ’n’ roll memorabilia. It can accommodate up to 150 comfortably for a buffet-style banquet, and seats 50 to 60. It rents for $1,450 on Friday and Saturday nights and $950 Sunday through Thursday, and includes up to four hours with a bartender and a full bar (add 10% for bottled beer and call liquor) plus taxes and gratuity, leaving no unexpected costs.
The Duck Room is an homage to regular performer Chuck Berry and his famous Duck Walk, featuring decorative ducks of all descriptions. Like the Elvis Room, it is on the lower level of the facility and has 10-foot ceilings. The room has a built-in stage and sound system, perfect for live entertainment in an intimate setting. Seating up to 100 people or serving up to 300 buffet-style, the Duck Room is available for $3,450 on Friday and Saturday and $2,800 the rest of the week, with the same bar amenities as the Elvis Room. A sound technician is available for $200 if you are planning musical entertainment.
Just down the street are two more Edwards enterprises, Pin-Up Bowl and The Pageant Concert Nightclub. Pin-Up is a retro-styled bowling alley and martini lounge with eight lanes of bowling. Individual lanes can be reserved, or the entire facility can be leased for an event. A limited menu offers basic pub grub – appetizers, pizza, burgers and such.
Since it opened in October 2000 The Pageant has rapidly become one of the premier music and entertainment venues in St. Louis. It features the Halo Bar, which can be used for smaller events, and the main concert venue, which has a maximum seating capacity of 2,000. Seating arrangements are extremely flexible. At the heart of The Pageant is a full professional soundstage, and throughout the year the facility plays host to several large corporate events. Past patrons have included the Bryan Cave law firm, the Repertory Theater of St. Louis and the Variety Club of St. Louis.
There are even a few places in the Loop that are not part of the Edwards empire. An obvious place to start is the U. City Public Library. The library offers two private conference rooms, seating eight and fourteen respectively, and an auditorium that seats up to 130 with an adjoining kitchen. Preference is given to U. City residents and businesses – the fee is $20 per meeting for residents and $80 for non-residents. The library also requires that the meeting be free, open to the public and non-profit.
Caddy-corner from the library at 6680 Delmar is the relatively new Screenz Computing Center, and on the lower level of Screenz is the Loop Conference Center. There are four meeting rooms in the Center – the smallest seats four and the largest can accommodate up to 25. Rates range from $15 to $30 an hour or $100 to $220 for the day. Each suite features ergonomic chairs, a dry erase board and a recessed projection screen. Flip pad charts, televisions, overhead and LCD projectors are available at an additional cost. The facility is also conveniently served by the computing center above, with copy, fax, Internet and other services available.
For a different kind of special event, or perhaps a team-building exercise, explore your group’s creativity at Craft Alliance. With a 40-year history of providing arts and crafts instruction and displays in the Loop, Craft Alliance offers classes for children and adults in ceramic and fiber arts, drawing and painting, glass and metalworking. Two unique scenarios are available for adult events – the Raku Party and the Glass Blast. For two hours on a Saturday night, five to fifteen guests can enjoy wine while decorating unique Raku ceremonial vessels with glaze that transforms in the night fire. Or, try a three-hour adventure in the hot glass technique known as lampworking, in which participants learn to make beads, marbles, flowers and jewelry with professional instruction and all tools and supplies provided.
Another unusual approach to event hosting is available nearby at the Melting Pot. At the Melting Pot, located at 6683 Delmar, fondue is the name of the game. A room that seats up to 32 is available, or you may wish to scatter into smaller groups among the many intimate booths throughout the restaurant. Full-course fondue meals are available, or just cheese and/or chocolate if you prefer. Did you say chocolate? That’s right, few things make a group happier than sharing drinks over a big pot of melted chocolate with plenty of goodies to dip.
This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg for possible meeting and event venues in the loop.
• Fitz’s American Grill & Bottling Works is revived from a former drive-in hamburger joint that’s the stuff of local legend. Now you can have dinner at Fitz’s while watching a genuine vintage root beer bottling line in operation – not something you see every day. Private events for up to 50 can be arranged, generally on weeknights.
• Brandt’s Café – a Loop staple and outdoor dining favorite – has recently reinvented itself with the Red Carpet Lounge, which features local and nationally-known jazz acts several nights a week.
• Riddle’s Penultimate Café and Wine Bar has a long history of great food, drinks and music in the Loop, and features a semi-private room that can be reserved for up to 20.
• The combined 609 Restaurant and U Lounge offer lunch and dinner in the Asian-themed restaurant and happy hours, live DJs, free wi-fi and private parties in the lounge.
There is not enough room in one article to touch on all the meeting, event and entertainment possibilities in the Loop. The Tivoli Theater anchors the scene with first-run movies and art films. Food options along Delmar include Thai, Lebanese, Japanese, Spanish, Ethiopian, Mexican, Chinese and Italian, plus ice cream, bubble tea, coffee, and yes, chocolate. The Loop is also a great place to get that tattoo or piercing you’ve been thinking about, or browse through an art gallery, book store, music shop, bicycle shop or clothing store. For more information on any of these possibilities, plus a great map of area businesses and Internet links to many of them, point your browser to www.visittheloop.com.
(Stephen Lindsley is a contributor from St. Louis, MO)
Contact information for the Delmar Loop
Becca: 314-727-4444, ext. 12
314-725-1177, ext. 325
The Melting Pot
Leslie Ramsey: 314-726-5161, ext. 17
Sarah Jones: 314-725-5555, ext. 57
Screenz Computing Center
Kelly Jenkins: 314-721-0007 or
U. City Public Library