Q&A: Ben DeRolph, new owner of Kobo

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the March 13, 2014 edition

For the past three weeks, Kobo's new owner Ben DeRolph has been running on pure adrenaline. An off-handed comment took DeRolph's aspirations of owning his own music venue from pipe dream to reality in no-time flat, and he has been moving at warp speed ever since. Even with the soul-crushing schedule, DeRolph is keeping his cool and getting ready for some exciting changes.

It has always been a pipe dream to do booking at a music venue, and now I own the place. I've wanted to own a bar and book shows forever, but it just never seemed to be the right time. When Tree Bar went up for sale, I wanted it real bad, but my friends beat me to it. So when Kobo opened up, I got lucky.

I was actually just joking around when I said I wanted to buy the bar. Jacob [Wooten] and I were sitting around discussing some things for his band, Mr. Fahrenheit, when I started talking about how jealous I was he got to own and operate a music venue. He laughed to himself and said, "You want to buy it?" When he found out I was seriously considering it, he actually sat me down with a list of things that suck about owning the bar. Even after all that, I still wanted it. Here we are three weeks later, and I'm the owner.

Everybody has been overwhelmingly supportive. Jacob has been cool enough to stay on and help me make the transition. I told the entire staff I wanted them all to stay on, and was happy to see they all did. I've had a lot of my friends and local musicians say to me they're really relieved that I am keeping the place a music venue. I made sure that everybody who had already been booked for a show got to keep their date. The only negativity I really experienced was from a few guys who book mosh-pit shows. Oh yeah, did I mention after I remodel there will be no more mosh pit shows?

I want to class the joint up. A lot of people have been asking me if I plan to change the name and concept right away. For now, I am making subtle changes until we can really re-launch. I plan to introduce some comedy nights and other things in addition to the remodel. I want to have a cool music venue, but I also want that venue to have a classy and unique atmosphere. I switched over all 14 of the taps to craft beers. Except for PBR, that one had to stay.

This has been way more of an undertaking than I expected. I didn't realize how many responsibilities there were with owning and running my own bar, and it seems to be one emergency after another so far. But, at the end of every 14-hour day, I've still been pretty excited. I never thought I'd own my own music venue, and now I do. That's worth all the work.