Two venues to bring unique event, drinking experiences to Niles
Published 11:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2023
NILES — The calendar pages continue to turn, bringing us closer to the debut of the new Underground Laugh Lounge comedy venue and The Study speakeasy bar in downtown Niles.
Sheila and Karl Koebel toured the building, showcasing their continuing work. Though still under construction, their vision shines through the building materials and open walls. The historic former Carnegie Library has transformed under their care, clearing out the dust and humidity, opening up the basement space, and creating a unique event and drinking experience for the area. Inspections and final works are in the near future, just in time to finish for the September grand opening.
The basement, which formerly housed a collection of offices, will now be a wide-open location for audiences to take in stand-up comedians, with acts both local and nationally touring. The Koebels promised “big names”, making Niles a destination for stand-up comedy. The space features a stage and a variety of seating, along with the comedy club’s own downstairs bar and facilities. Karl described a mural intended for the wall, featuring legendary comedians and personalities painted to appear as if they were sitting and taking in the show. The remodel exposed a brick archway, near where attendees will enter, including an available lift for those unable to use the stairs, and a glass case for performers to sell merchandise. The entry hallway is already decorated with photos of the house MCs and the staff who will be serving.
One floor above will be the home of The Study. The Koebels described a “library feel”, with lighting, decor, and serviceware to match the Prohibition-style atmosphere. Whether sipping your cocktail from a tea cup, drinking bottled beer in a bag, or enjoying gin from a bathtub, their goal is to transport customers to a world without TVs or outside cares. They hope to create a place to come and seek comradery, conversation, and fun. Even the entrance will play a part in the vibe, with those who ring the doorbell without the current password found on the website facing a little extra questioning before being granted entry. Additionally, members of the VIP Bookworm Club will find their own initialed glass waiting for them as they arrive. Those wishing for more privacy may request the Game Room, a back room utilizing an old-style poker table.
The Koebels will focus on quality with the drink offerings, creating a menu of Prohibition-style cocktails and basic mixed drinks. They plan to provide more than whiskey, planning to work with local breweries, wineries, and distilleries to showcase the offerings of the local region. They have plenty of ideas for working with their neighbors.
“The idea is, if you like it, you can go right down the street and get it,” Karl said.
The couple has done work to remodel the upstairs as well, with the intent to use it as a lodging space for traveling comedians. Two dorm-style rooms, each with their own look, will give performers a short climb to a comfortable, private space, complete with their own exit so they can walk the rest of downtown and enjoy what Niles has to offer.
Karl and Sheila are both from Niles, attending Niles High School and working locally. Karl still works part-time as a warehouse maintenance production supervisor. Sheila is retired from selling fireplaces. She described her long love of comedy.
“I’ve always wanted to open up a comedy club,” she said. “I’ve used comedy all of my life just to get through difficult times. I love to laugh. I love to make people laugh.”
Sheila is no stranger to the comedy stage herself, having experience in stand-up and as an emcee. Though she felt she “didn’t always have the yah yahs”, she made plenty of connections in the comedy world and looks forward to bringing nationally touring big names to Niles, while also giving local talent a place to shine.
“They told me ‘you’d make an awesome comedy mama’,” she said.
The comedy club already has bookings into 2024. Content ratings for each comedian can be found, along with the schedule and other information, on the website at undergroundlaughlounge.com. The grand opening is scheduled for the weekend of September 8th.
Justin Flagel is the founder of Red Chuck Productions, where he writes, tells stories, and creates new media. Follow his work at redchuckproductions.com. Feedback can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.