Aug 252004
Authors: Sarah Fallik

Optimism is reflected on the faces of new Starlight owner Melissa Laugen and manager James Sargent as they talk about their plans for the venue’s future.

In light of the recent events concerning charges of sexual/physical assault against past Starlight owner Eric Rabinowitz, the Starlight’s future has been a general concern.

On Aug. 2, Laugen officially became the Starlight’s new owner. Laugen, 25, and her husband, Sargent, 27, will run the venue along with the same staff employed under the previous owner.

Being among the few music venues in Fort Collins, local music lovers recognize the importance of the Starlight providing regular live shows. Both Sargent and Laugen identify the Starlight’s significance as a venue to the Fort Collins music community.

“We want to keep the venue going,” Laugen said. “Fort Collins has been lacking in music entertainment, especially compared to Boulder and Denver.”

The Starlight is known in the community for bringing in a wide array of local and national talent.

Although rock is his passion, Sargent said he will continue to book a wide array of musicians.

“I found a way of life or a subculture that I really warmed up to. Rock music doesn’t do that for everyone,” Sargent said.

He understands the importance of sustaining the Starlight’s musical variety to give others the chance to have same experience he had.

Even though neither Laugen nor Sargent have owned or managed a music venue before, Sargent said growing up around music and bands is his background for handling the Starlight’s booking and public relations. Laugen has experience in restaurant and customer service but said she is very into the music.

“I’m picking it up pretty quickly,” she said.

Laugen and Sargent talk with enthusiasm about their plans to change and improve the venue. Some changes have already taken place, while others are either underway or will be in the future.

The dull, grayish blue color of the women’s bathroom has been replaced by a more colorful red and pink. Everything has been thoroughly cleaned. Other planned cosmetic changes are the replacement of the old booths to brand new, red diner-style booths. A few booths will be taken out completely and replaced by a foosball table. There are also plans to fix the air conditioning and replaced the bar countertops and eventually the women’s bathroom’s countertops as well.

These changes are only a small fraction of the plans to improve the theatre. Drink prices have been changed already.

“Prices have been damn near cut in half,” Sargent said.

Both Laugen and Sargent view the changes in drink prices as beneficial to both the customers and the employees.

“The lower our prices, the better tips our employees get,” Laugen said.

Many intended changes have more to do with the manner in which the theatre is perceived by the community and by the bands that may play there.

Laugen and Sargent said it is extremely important to ensure that the bands who play at the Starlight are treated well.

“We have all kinds of music and all levels of talent. We’re going to treat everybody right. Everybody deserves that,” Laugen said.

Laugen and Sargent also recognize that treating the musicians well indirectly trickle down to the customers.

“If you make everything easy for the band and allow them to have a good time with their art, that’s going to reflect in performance,” Sargent said.

Laugen and Sargent consider it equally important to create a welcoming atmosphere for the Starlight.

“It has more of a family atmosphere since they took it over,” said Julian Archuleta, bartender and security guard for the Starlight. “Melissa and James want newcomers to the Starlight to feel comfortable and feel that they belong. “

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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