Turnstiles turns it up with first live music show

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday night is a big step for a new music venue on Grand Rapids’ West Side: The first live music show is taking place at Turnstiles.

It’s a local pandemic success story.

The crowd is limited to 50% capacity, which means just under 80 people at the establishment on Stocking Avenue near Bridge Street. There won’t be any dancing, but that won’t stop the music.

There was a time, however, that the pandemic might have. Assistant general manager Rob Schellenberg said he was worried for a while that the bar and restaurant would never open.

“But somehow life just kind of found a way with this place,” he said.

Shellenburg has been working on the dream of owning his own place for more than a decade.

“When I go to Philadelphia or New Orleans or Chicago, I go find where all the industry people hang out. Because when those people work in hospitality, they can tell you all the cool, hip places — where they eat, where they drink and those places are usually the most unique in the city,” he said.

That was his goal for Turnstiles. When he finally had the financial support he needed, the pandemic happened.

“It was scary,” he said.

It didn’t stop him, though. Just as the bar was ready to open, the state, almost magically, began lifting restrictions, allowing Turnstiles (named after Schellenberg’s favorite Billy Joel album) to officially open last week.

“It was like walking through a dream. Pretty much still walking through this place is like I can’t believe this actually happened,” he said.

Schellenberg has spent most of his life in the hospitality industry. He knows how hard it is to be successful. But when life gives you a pandemic, don’t panic; push forward and open a live music venue where people can come back together — at least that’s Schellenberg’s advice.

“I think it really helped push us to be better and … I guess COVID was kind of a blessing with that because when you got to run at half capacity, you just got to be better at what you do,” he said.

Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys will be the first live music show at Turnstiles. The music starts at 9 p.m.

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