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Helium adds a new wrinkle to Cobblestone

August 3, 2012

What was supposed to be a post about the arrival of a new comedy club down in the Cobblestone District morphed into something totally different. Instead of talking about Helium Comedy Club taking over in the space that formerly housed Morrisey’s and Benchwarmers became thoughts on the need for more people in the area around First Niagara Center.

However, I still wanted to explore what could come of Cobblestone’s newest tenant.

The fact that there is going to be a full-fledged comedy club down in the heart of the arena district is huge. The only drawback is the lack of your traditional bar/restaurant with the departure of Morriseys and Benchwarmers. However, this has the potential to be self-sustaining to a degree.

While Morrisey’s and Benchwarmers likely ebbed and flowed with hockey season, Helium has the ability to become a destination all by itself. The key will be booking solid acts on a regular occasion while also providing a solid regular lineup.

I’m no expert on the comedy scene, so I’m not sure how big of a room Helium will have as compared to the type of club which land relatively solid acts. Regardless, I think it will be key to ensure the long-term success of the club. It will be particularly important in the early going as the casino, Webster Block and Donovan Buildings are built out.

Obviously this place isn’t going to rollout Louie CK, Lewis Black and other mainstream comics on a regular basis. It isn’t the type of building or venue that would support that type of crowd (my Cobblestone pipe dream venue would). However, up-and-coming and well known club comics certainly would fare well here and the key will simply to bring in those acts on a regular basis.

So long as the proper marketing and education on the comics coming into town is done, there won’t be any risk of people not knowing who they’re going to see. That would be key number two in my opinion. Of course, this information probably comes on page two and three of the comedy club owners handbook and is nothing the guys running Helium aren’t fully aware of.

Of note, both Helium locations (Philly and Portland) have serious acts playing most weekends. For example, Dave Attell is playing Philly this week. Clearly they’re capable of landing big acts which should certainly keep fans rolling in on a weekly basis.

The reason I see Helium being more of a success than the two previous tenants (who each had been there nearly five years) is because it will not be dependent on concerts or Sabres games for patrons. As stated previously, the acts will need to be there. But there is more than enough potential for this to become a place people plan to go on the weekends. Not to mention that this could technically be considered a “chain”. Helium has two other locations and despite the general lack of chains in Western New York, they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Obviously people from out of town are taking note of what Buffalo has to offer. That is a very good thing.

Co-existing with First Niagara Center will be difficult, however. Sabres game nights will be a near impossible draw between six and ten, but postgame has the potential to be a huge draw. However, with other comics, bands and the sports teams being the primary draw on event nights, Helium will have some competition to deal with.

However, taking in a few comics once a game or concert is over while having a few wobbly pops is probably quite appealing to many fans. Of course, chilling at a bar and talking about the game is also something that appeals to the masses, which is the only place I see trouble for Helium.

Ultimately, this should serve as a great addition to the Cobblestone District. I see it as a complimentary attraction to a district with very few things to do. Long term success will come with additional development of the glut of parking lots in the area.

Keep your eyes peeled for opening night, I think Helium is going to provide a great return down around the arena.

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