The Fire Before The Grand Opening
The Church Nightclub is a unique space that has an expansive range of appeal. This former religious sanctuary is now a signature staple of Denver’s nightlife and has been the home to dance worshippers for a little over 2 decades. The Church opened New Years Eve 1996, but owner Regas Christou faced a detrimental setback that almost prevented the club from opening.
Regas was at The Church Nightclub 48 hours before the planned grand opening for last minute checks and preparations. At this point, 1,000 pre-sale tickets were already in the hands of excited club-goers. During his routine walk through, he started to smell something burning as he made his way to the main floor. Once on the dance floor, Regas looked up and saw flames flickering at the very top of The Church’s ceiling. Being that this building was once a sacred space, Regas couldn’t help his mind wandering to the thought of devil’s play. He bounced back to reality and knew he had to act fast. After using all 14 fire extinguishers in attempt to fight the fire with no luck, the ceiling started bubbling and it became increasingly hotter in the building. Regas finally called the fire department.
The firefighters acted quickly and immediately climbed the stairwell on the side of the building to reach the top windows. They continued to break the windows as Regas exclaimed that there was no way for the firefighters to reach the fire that way. They assumed there was an attic or crawl space but failed to realize that the building didn’t have those features considering it was a church. These broken windows added to the damage that would have to be fixed before the grand opening.
A second fire engine came and the firefighters proceeded to cut a hole through the top of The Church to reach the source of the fire. This effort made the fire jump about 20 feet, engulfing but staying between the old rafters. The firefighters continued to jet water from the fire hoses, resultantly spraying water everywhere and soaking the whole main floor. The fire was finally stopped.
Regas went up to the Fire Chief explaining that he still had to open the nightclub in just two days. The Chief expressed his doubt and told Regas that opening was nearly impossible. With only 48 hours until the grand opening, Regas was still determined to make it happen.
The Church was condemned, and signs were placed on the front of the building to prevent work. Other developers and some select citizens of Denver originally wanted The Church demolished and turned into a parking structure. This couldn’t happen because The Church building is historic. The fire had just provided the possible opportunity for those that wanted to build a parking garage in its space.
Regas made his way to the side of the building to calculate the damage. The whole side of The Church was destroyed. With only 48 hours, Regas told the Fire Chief that he would be able to fix the building in time as long as he didn’t have to pull permits. As the fire department was finishing up, he was advised to wait across the street and away from the debris. He called an old friend to explain what happened and ask for assistance in repairing the damage. The fire had been broadcast on the local news, and a few customers Regas has served for many years saw the incident. Regas became overwhelmed, and began to question if he really could fix the building in time for the grand opening.
As he was waiting to start the repairs, Regas’s old friend arrived and directed him to the damaged side of the building. About 20 friends and Regas’s customers had come to the scene of the incident with supplies, ready to help re-build. The amount of support that came to help Regas truly touched him.
There was a cleaning crew and building crew working the entire 48 hours until the club opened. With the help of many volunteers and after many hours of hard work, they had successfully prepared the building for opening night.
The Church Nightclub opened on December 31, 1996.
Video of opening night:
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