Double Happiness is again ready to raise the vibration in Columbus

The Brewery District bar and venue prepares for a return to prominence under owner/operator Yalan Papillons

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Yalan Papillons photographed inside of Double Happiness in 2017

In 2017, suffering from burnout and disillusioned with the concert and bar industries, Yalan Papillons stepped away from Double Happiness, shuttering the Brewery District venue she owned and operated, which had long existed as a critical cultural hub in the city, hosting everything from local hip-hop shows to thunderous tours from killer indies (a pair of double bills, Protomartyr/Parquet Courts and Metz/Lightning Bolt, remain among the best shows I’ve seen in my years in Columbus). 

“Most people have investors. Most people have bar managers. Most people have people who do their payroll and their taxes,” Papillons said in a mid-December interview at Upper Cup. “But I do everything. I do the bookkeeping. I do the payroll. I do the marketing and the social media. At one point I was doing the cooking. So, I was burned. I was burned.”

Following seven years at the helm, Papillons stepped back, closing Double Happiness while she studied to become a Reiki master and to “sort of be hidden for a while,” she said, following decades spent in the relative limelight as a booker, bartender and business owner. At the time, Papillon never envisioned a return to the space, which started hosting events again in early 2020, not long before the pandemic swept through and shuttered the touring music industry along with Double Happiness (the venue closed for 10 months before resuming operation three to four days a week).

“It’s been challenging, but I’m embracing the space, because I sort of feel like I have to be there,” said Papillons, who recently started booking national acts for the space, with the first slated to perform in April 2022. “Double Happiness means ‘the marriage,’ so that place is like my husband, and if I wasn’t supposed to be there, I wouldn’t keep getting called back to it."

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In the past, this sometimes meant that disaster would strike when Papillon took time away from the venue, such as the year she traveled to SXSW in Austin, Texas, and part of Double Happiness’ heating system became dislodged and fell from the ceiling during a concert, striking the drummer for Tweens as the Cincinnati indie-rock band performed. Or the second time she traveled to SXSW and all of the pipes in the back room burst, flooding the bar. Or the third time she made the trek to SXSW (noticing a pattern here?) and Double Happiness lost electricity, which required breaking out a skylight for the electric company to access the roof and return power.

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Papillon has taken these accumulated disasters in stride, including a recent plumbing issue that necessitated crews to dig four feet into the floor in the main bar area to access and repair a drainpipe, a costly and unexpected project that has temporarily shuttered the venue. (Papillons anticipates reopening in short order, while a GoFundMe has been launched to help cover the cost of repairs.) Rather than retreating, however, Papillons has leaned in amid the ongoing construction work.

“This situation sort of catapulted me to where it was like, ‘Oh, shit, I have to start looking at [booking shows for] April,’ and I don’t know how or why that makes sense, but I was like, 'I have to be doing these shows where people are coming back,'” said Papillons, who recently installed a new sound system as part of ongoing upgrades to the space, which could eventually expand to incorporate everything from a Reiki studio to offices for a nonprofit. “It made me proactive in sending offers for shows, which I hadn’t really been doing. We needed to raise the vibration."

While Papillons has returned to a familiar space, she has done so with a different mindset, one that blurs the line between club owner and energy worker, enabling her to bring her Reiki training into the venue, which she now views as a tool that can help to shape the cosmic vibe.

“I was sitting there meditating on [being drawn back to the space], like, what? Whyyyy? And, at the end of the day, the thing that I make of it is that I have been doing energy work this whole time,” she said, pointing to 30 years spent booking shows and the accumulated spirits generated by the enterprise. “There’s a hertz that goes out from all of the bands, and from the curation of the bands. So [coming back to Double Happiness] is not really me turning my back on energy work; it’s sort of me trying to raise the vibration for the community as a whole, right? Because the community needs a higher vibration.”