Shuttered building to become event center

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Michaela Hightower will open a small event center at 1003 S. Tejon St. next month.

Michaela Hightower has been a professional party-thrower for more than 15 years and now is set to open her own event center, Soirée, on the corner of S. Tejon and Mills streets, next month.

Hightower got the final permits this week to move forward with a total renovation of the 2,300-square-foot space, which years ago was home to a popular neighborhood Mexican restaurant, Nemeths El Tejon. The space has been shuttered for three years and needed a lot of work, Hightower said.

But, the viga ceilings, the murals and the openness of the building space have character, she said. And she had been looking for the right location for more than a year.

“I really did get the bug for something different,” she said. “There is a need for a smaller, intimate venue that still has a lot of catering opportunities.”

The 8,000 square-foot building is owned by a fund, 1000 S. Tejon LLC, and managed by Griffis/Blessing. It was built in two parts in 1963 and 1966.

A Denver construction crew, Refresh Construction, is gutting and remodeling the event center and will build a waterfall and a bar, add a new staircase and new restrooms.

Hightower is mostly bootstrapping the event center project, but she did get a Small Business Administration-backed loan to compete the work, she said.

There will be about 2,000-square feet of open space, she said, which can suit a daytime board meeting for 10 or an evening sit-down dinner for 60. For a strolling party, there is room for up to 110, with rates ranging from $600 to $1,000 for evening events.

Her idea, she said, is to be able to mix-and-match caterers, designers, musicians and artists. A client won’t be tied to one style when planning an event, she said.  She will feature a monthly wine, bourbon and beer tasting club and will showcase local artists’ work.

“I want to illuminate other businesses,” she said. “Over the years, I have come across extraordinary businesses.”

Soirée’s opening day kicks off with whiskey tasting Feb. 21.