The scenery beyond the patio area reflects Spokane’s blue collar history — freight trains lurch toward downtown on a nearby elevated track as we sit at picnic tables in the late afternoon sun. I’m talking with Karli Ingersoll, local Spokane music icon, outside Lucky You Lounge — a venue she owns with her husband Caleb Ingersoll. This new endeavor in the popular, eclectic Browne’s Addition neighborhood is a successful follow up to The Bartlett, their small venue in the heart of downtown. Lucky You boasts a main stage, a more intimate basement stage, and a full restaurant and bar.
“We weren’t sure how it would go, and it’s still very new,” says Karli. “But for example, we’ll book a certain type of show here that will, seems like automatically, get three times the ticket sales as it would at the Bartlett.”
She wonders aloud what causes the increase. Is it the newness? The nightclub feel? The 10,000 square feet of space that attracts a wider range of guests, from front-row dancers to chilled-out diner/listeners? The 7-days-per-week schedule?
It may be something simpler: a ton of hard work. By both Ingersolls, yes, but also by a growing army of volunteers, employees, and community supporters. These are locals who have cherished the Bartlett so much, they stepped up in a big way during the pre-launch construction of Lucky You Lounge.
“We have the best friends and family, and so many community volunteers who love local music,” Karli says. “Sometimes I looked at people and wondered, why are you still here? You’ve been working for free for ten hours.”
The answer, she thinks, is that Spokane likes to support its own. “When someone steps out and creates something that is about making the city better — in the arts, in business — there are a lot of people in this town who really want to join in.”
Karli and Caleb started out as those people. In their twenties, they loved being a part of the community surrounding The Empyrean, a legendary all-ages downtown music venue that had to close down a decade ago due to fire-code issues. Karli recalls countless shows there, including her own. For her and Caleb, its closing was a turning point.
“That’s when we said to each other, we have to do this,” she remembers. “Small, local music venues are definitely a challenge... a labor of love. And it felt that the torch was passing to us in that moment.”
They took the torch, and through a crowdfunding campaign raised over $20,000 to open The Bartlett in 2013. Ever since, the effort has been as gritty and blue collar as the area surrounding Lucky You. Karli is quick to share the reality — long days at a “real job” followed by long nights at the venue, investing profits back into the business — dispelling any notions that the life of a music club owner is one long, fun concert. Like any successful entrepreneur, she is at once ever-energetic about her vision and ever-tired from making it a reality. For over a half-decade, many have credited the Ingersolls’ diligent work as a key factor in nurturing Spokane’s local and touring music scene.
“Small, local music venues are definitely a challenge... it felt that the torch was passing to us in that moment.”
But as she leads a tour around Lucky You, it becomes clear that this place is a brave new step into sustainability and growth — for the couple and for the music scene as a whole. It’s been a summer of transition for the Ingersolls, with Karli quitting her full-time job as a graphic designer to fully embrace venue operations. The Bartlett, they recently announced, will close its doors after a round of fall 2019 concerts — a difficult decision to make about their beloved little music club, but one that has been met with understanding and support, given how Lucky You Lounge has taken off.
It’s almost like the Ingersolls have grown up alongside their growing city, and found a way to make something new that is bigger than they can possibly maintain themselves. That’s the leap of faith they’ve made, and a bunch of other talented leaders are stepping in to lend their gifts to the ongoing live music cause. One example is having an experienced local chef in their corner.
“When it comes to getting into a food menu, we feel so lucky,” says Karli. “We got the best, and we gave Josh Grimes [formerly of Casper Fry and Ruins] total control. His food has been amazing.”
As for the overall state of Spokane’s music scene, Ingersoll still sees more potential to build. Even with great local acts, the city is still building its nightlife culture.
“One positive thing I see with an influx of young people moving to Spokane is that they come from cities where the culture is to see live music as a frequent, routine thing to do with friends. I think Spokane is still growing into the idea that seeing live music is for anytime, not just for special occasions.”
To be able to build critical mass, it takes hard-working visionaries like the Ingersolls and Grimes (and many others) who continue to show up, consistently meeting the growing demand with high-quality experiences. And for that, we’re lucky to have them.