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Mirror Palace a hit in its inaugural summer

CBMF hopes to make some changes next year… maybe silent disco?

By Alissa Johnson

The debut of the Mirror Palace as a temporary home for the Crested Butte Music Festival (CBMF) was a hit this summer—but with experience comes wisdom. Festival organizers are looking to make some improvements next year and, with the blessing of the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, perhaps bring some new amenities and events to the venue.

“People loved it. People were over the moon for the tent,” Crista Ryan, CBMF executive director, told the council on October 4. The Mirror Palace is a vintage Spiegeltent from Belgium. Originating in Europe at the end of 19th century, Spiegeltents were used as traveling dance halls, bars and other entertainment. They were set up and taken down within a matter of days, and are handmade of wood, canvas, mirrors and glass.

Ryan met with the council to inform them of changes planned for next year and gauge their interest in some new ideas, such as operating the venue more like a bar, extending the hours of operation to accommodate event logistics, and hosting a few late-night events.

“We learned some big lessons and we’re going to try to build on that next year,” Ryan said, indicating that she was already in talks with town staff and the Mt. Crested Butte Planning Commission regarding the conditional use permit required for next year’s festival.

Among the biggest lessons, Ryan noted the challenge of mud and surface mitigation given the tent’s location in the unpaved parking lot across from the Nordic Inn and Crested Butte Sports. She acknowledged that the town and council probably saw that coming.

“Some things you just have to experience for yourself,” she joked.

The production timeline in the 2016 conditional use permit was also tight, requiring that events finish by 10 p.m. That was sometimes a tall order since many festival events begin at 7:30 p.m.

“More than a couple of times, we had experiences where patrons were not arriving at our events until 30 or 40 minutes past the start of the event,” Ryan said, noting that bands sometimes went on late as well. “One of the things I would like to put forth for you to consider is extending the length of time that we can be in the venue and producing events.”

Ryan also wants to create more professional looking entrances to the tent and improve the leveling of the tent itself because one section got somewhat squished. Yet she also noted that one big concern at the start of the summer—parking—seemed to go well. There was sufficient parking all season, and the only time it got tight was when biking events came to town. The delineation between the lot for the Mirror Palace and the RVs and other vehicles associated with the bike events created some parking confusion.

“Overall I thought [the season] went really, really well. We didn’t have any major issues,” Ryan said. She’s looking to hire a project manager, hopefully a local, with construction experience to address some of these issues and oversee the installation and removal of the tent next year.

“As you know we’re a music festival, not a construction company, so I think that will make things go smoother,” Ryan said.

Ryan and festival staff also plan to condense the festival schedule and open up the facility for rentals at the beginning and end of the season. They’re also interested in running the venue more like a bar as a means to generate additional income, as well as hosting a few late-night events such as a DJ or a silent disco. She wanted to know if the council would be open to those ideas, and whether it was worth including them in the permit application.

“I am basically throwing it out there in terms of an idea… I’m not saying it is something we would do. I’m asking if it would be something you see any potential for allowing us to do,” Ryan said.

“On the late-night, how late are you talking about?” asked councilmember Janet Farmer.

“If we were to do a scenario like that, it would be within the season of our festival. So, say the festival is four weeks, we’d maybe do it three times throughout that and probably going until one in the morning. I’m totally throwing this out as a hypothetical,” Ryan responded.

Farmer wondered about the issue of noise for surrounding neighbors. Nordic Inn manager Ken Stone, who happened to be in the audience, jumped in. “We actually had a concern that it might be disturbing for guests who were out hiking all day on the later events, and it wasn’t a problem. The sound issue was pretty contained, much more so than we thought,” Stone said.

Stone also said he didn’t have a problem with a few later events but thought 1 a.m. might be a little late.

“Were we aware if there were complaints from anybody nearby?” Farmer asked.

Community Development director Carlos Velado confirmed that the Planning Commission had heard from a few condominium developments. “I got feedback from the Planning Commission but wouldn’t characterize them as complaints. They were part of the process, and so what they relayed back to us was that a couple events went over the time period.”

Town clerk Jill Lindros informed the council that she and Ryan had not discussed these ideas at all, so while their plans are likely going to be influenced by the type of liquor license, she could not speak to specifics. Lindros did note that if the music festival secured a full liquor license, the state would legally allow them to operate until 2 a.m. It would be up to the town to enforce any hours of operation outlined in a conditional use permit.

Overall, the council seemed amenable to some changes, though did feel that 1 a.m. for late-night events might be on the late side. Mayor Todd Barnes suggested that Ryan begin the permitting process early.

“If you anticipate somewhat major changes to the application, you might want to start earlier to give yourself a buffer,” Barnes said.

“I’d like to start today,” Ryan agreed. She was also slated to meet with the Planning Commission and get their input before putting together a formal application.

Any changes will be subject to a formal review process by the Planning Commission and the Town Council, including public input.

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