For six years, The Beat Coffeehouse provided locals their morning buzz and afternoon pick-me-ups, steadily morphing into a true Downtown hub and providing a gateway to the creative spaces in the Emergency Arts building. But its prime location—and the growing Downtown scene—made it a target for more lucrative business, and in early July, Downtown trailblazers and Emergency Arts/Beat owners Jennifer and Michael Cornthwaite announced the coffee shop’s September closure.
The announcement came shortly after the Small Space Fest art festival, which was inspired by the building’s history and its boutique studios, attracted hundreds to explore the former medical center, with The Beat anchoring the artistic endeavor. Homespun events such as these, and a DIY vibe, gave the cozy coffee shop its charm. The furniture and bathrooms are old. Napkin doodles, newspaper clippings and stringed lights with burnt-out bulbs adorn the place. The Beat’s people-watching opportunities rival McCarran, and a performance space routinely featured comedy, poetry and live music. And all that creativity has seeped into the walls hiding behind retro posters (once including a coveted one of Frank Zappa), making it a special place that will become a memory come September 25.
“There are countless moments and stories The Beat has given me,” Jennifer Cornthwaite says. “So many friends, early mornings, bingos, and emergency trips to Restaurant Depot. One time I saw a couple taking their engagement pictures at a table in the front window. I started crying and asked if I could take [a] picture [of them] having their picture taken. I was super touched that our place had a special place in someone’s life and love.”
Michelle Watts, manager/barista and one-half of local band Sunrise Manor, has only been working at The Beat for seven months. But she has visited the place since she was in high school, around the time she started learning how to sing and play guitar. “This is one of the only venues that welcomes all ages. [The Beat] was one of the first places I was able to perform, and that was a long time ago. I’m 23 now. I’ve grown so much as a performer, and that wouldn’t have been possible if there weren’t places [like this] that allowed me to play.”
The budding musician is just one of many repeat customers The Beat attracted since opening in 2010. On any given day you’ll see Claus Schmidt, a filmmaker and German transplant, working on his laptop at the space that naturally lent itself to a coworking environment. “When I first came to Las Vegas after a week or two, I thought, ‘Oh, my God. What have I done?’,” he says. “Then I came to The Beat, and I met cool people. No other place has the same vibe. You meet people for life, for social connection, [and] for sharing ideas.”
The coffee shop and its entrepreneurial patrons aren’t the only ones getting the boot. While the building’s second-floor occupants can keep their doors open, the first floor’s Smash! Studio Art, Jeff Knox Photography, and Satellite Contemporary will also have to find other homes.
Satellite owners Nicole Langille, Christopher Kane Taylor and Dennis K. McGinnis, who opened their gallery in October 2014, said the space was ideal for their team from Flagstaff. The price was right, and interns could watch over the modest exhibit area while the owners were gone. While they hosted regional, national and international artists and are proud of what they accomplished, they will not continue to rent at Emergency Arts on the second floor. “We all came into [this] arts community with an ambitious proposal. The shows we did were very strong. The shows we had lined up for next year were very strong,” Taylor says.
Other independent businesses, such as the Burlesque Hall of Fame and the Las Vegas Zine Library, have plans to continue on somewhere else, while upstairs occupants wonder if they’ll see less foot traffic without the inviting, creative space downstairs. Feetish Spa Parlor on the second floor plans to stick around and see what happens.
“The whole reason I opened my own day spa [here] was because The Beat existed,” aesthetician and Feetish owner Andrea Lipomi says. She moved to Las Vegas from Rochester, New York, in 2007, and the coffee shop is what introduced her to the spaces available. “The Beat reminded me of so many cool things on the East Coast. Even with its flaws, I still feel at home here. I have nothing but love for Jennifer and Michael.”
A true gathering place, the Downtown hangout regularly hosted community events. The Human Experience open-mic night ran there every Monday—even on holidays—for four years, before outgrowing the space. Co-founder and local DJ Miss Joy says the event’s performers and audience members have been nostalgic for the old location since they had to move. “I have such an appreciation for that corner,” she says. Although she is sad to see The Beat go, she is certain the same energy can flourish somewhere else. “I’m not married to the venue,” she says. “I’m married to the people and community that make the space what it is.”