You’re a musician—you live to play. But you’re also a grownup with a day job, and there are really no venues where you and your band can rock out. What do you do? Simple: Open a venue of your own.
Ridgefielder Brian Teagarden, a percussionist who spends his days as an art director for World Wrestling Entertainment, was told last year by a friend about a “For Rent” sign outside the former Triangles Café on Route 7 in Danbury, on the Ridgefield line. And so, the Sugar Hollow Taproom
“Around here, you’re either playing in a restaurant or at the Ridgefield Playhouse,” says Teagarden, 52, as we chat at the spacious bar. “There’s nothing in the middle, either for musicians or live-music fans.”
Teagarden enlisted his friend, guitarist John Conner, as partner, and they spent months renovating the building, which had sat vacant for more than two years. “It was like an old-fashioned dive bar,” Teagarden says. “It took forever, and we spent a ton of money to make it sound good, too.”
He shows me how even the artwork masks sound-absorbing panels. And it does sound good. On a winter evening I listened to Teagarden play with one of his bands, Johnny and the Goats, and even as the guitarist shredded like Hendrix, it was still possible to hold a conversation without shouting.
The Sugar Hollow Taproom opened on October 2 of last year and has built an audience of what Teagarden calls “middle-aged music lovers—people in their thirties through seventies who don’t want to be surrounded by a hundred drunk twenty-year-olds.”
“This is a music venue, not a bar,” says partner Conner, a real estate appraiser by day, whose curly, rock-and-roll locks belie his 53 years. And not just for rock, he adds, but country, bluegrass, folk and more: “Smart people like all kinds of music.”
Currently the Taproom books top local and regional acts on weekends. On Wednesdays, an open mic takes over the unique sunken stage, and on alternate Thursdays, Ridgefielder Jonathan Seem,
a top-notch guitarist, leads an open
“The caliber of talent around here is incredible,” says Cheryl Boyd, a Ridgefield real estate agent and jazz singer. She convinced the new owners to let her book singer-songwriters for a showcase on alternate Tuesdays. “You come in and you might see the next Joni Mitchell or Amy Winehouse.”
To the rear of the Taproom is a kind of VIP lounge, complete with comfy sofas and a vintage AC/DC pinball machine. The adjacent bar is well-stocked, and for now, the staff will deliver orders from Brick House Pizza, just up the road. Soon, food trucks will provide dining, and plans include a full kitchen, patio dining and jazz brunches.
But the Sugar Hollow Taproom is above all about the music. During my visit I watched a crowd of full-fledged grownups bopping to the beat.
“The other night we didn’t make much money,” says Teagarden of a recent Taproom gig. “But, you know, I had the freaking time of my life!” •