It’s 11 p.m. on Friday at Utopia Bar and Grille. Beneath dim lights, about 30 people are seated in fold-out wooden chairs around candle-lit tables watching the stage. An acoustic trio called The Juniors perform Tears For Fears’ “Mad World,” capturing most everyone’s attention.
Adjacent to the listening room, the bar isn’t so crowded. The music is still audible, but the people here speak a little louder, less afraid of disrupting the musicians at work 20 feet away, on the other side of a thick wall.
Among these barflies is Kathy Siokos, a bright-eyed, curly-haired woman who sips at a glass of red wine like she owns the whole damn bottle — and, as it happens, she does. [online copy corrected]
For the last decade, she has been Utopia’s sole proprietor, affording her something of a godmother status among the venue’s many regulars. As she sits, various patrons approach to pay their respects. Hugs are exchanged, as well as pecks on the cheek and promises of a personal audience. She is attended by an air of impending departure; as if at any moment she might be whisked away on some errand requiring immediate attention. She seems constantly ready to battle whatever challenge might arise — her determination a key reason that Utopia is moving at the end of the month, and not closing.
Nestled next to a fireworks store near the western terminus of Rosewood Drive, Utopia has resided here for three years, having moved from a tiny room now occupied by Foxfield Bar and Grille. But the business will vacate on July 27, relocating to a new spot on Jackson Boulevard, where Siokos hopes it will reopen by the end of August. She hints at issues with her current location that she declines to discuss on the record. “Let’s just say we’ve done all we can do here,” she says.
The owner turned to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to raise $10,000 to help with the transition, but she set the deadline as Aug. 31, which wound up being way too late.
“Liquor licenses don’t move with you and they cost a few thousand dollars, so I needed a little bit of help,” she says. “It turns out [that the deadline’s] the one thing about a Kickstarter you can’t edit, so I just had to take it down.”
The Kickstarter page, which she took down two weeks ago, has been supplanted by a new one on the similar site Gofundme. Unlike Kickstarter, Gofundme doesn’t require campaigns to reach their stated goals in order to get paid. Instead, donations go immediately to the cause.
But while Utopia’s Kickstarter only managed $800 before being cancelled, Siokos insists that her decision wasn’t motivated by sluggish donations.
“We didn’t need as much money, and I didn’t feel right about taking more than we needed,” she says. As of press time, Utopia’s Gofundme page had raised $675 towards its $6,000 goal. “The important thing is that local talent has a place to come.”
And come they do. During our chat, stalwart Columbia musician Bentz Kirby breezes into the room and exchanges a warm greeting with Siokos.
“Utopia is like home,” says Jenn McCallister, vocalist for the local act Stillhouse and co-owner of Loose Lucy’s in Five Points. “When I play [there] I know that I will be not only paid, but also fed and watered.”
Siokos is comfortable with the built-in clientele that Utopia has established, but her excitement is tempered by the financial and aesthetic challenges of moving into her next space, among them some crucial and costly renovations.
“The new place isn’t as big and so we’re going to be doing less food than we are now,” she says. “It’ll be less of a burden and free me up to keep the focus more on the music.”
As if on cue, a soft female voice floats in from the stage, musing that all around us are familiar faces and worn-out places.
Siokos nods approvingly: “When it’s time to go, it’s time to go,” she offers.
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Music Break at Music Farm Columbia
Join COR for an evening of networking for music and business leaders on September 3rd, featuring performances by Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar, and Lazy A and the Green Thang. Free admission for musicians and members! Register here.
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com