Common Ground Church Takes Over Bamboo Room, Aims to Be a "Music Business Downtown" | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Openings and Closings

Common Ground Church Takes Over Bamboo Room, Aims to Be a "Music Business Downtown"

Downtown Lake Worth’s seminal blues club Bamboo Room has had a shifting and tumultuous existence over the past couple of years. While ongoing news of the venue’s opening and closing and reopening has been the subject of concern throughout the area, it was only a few months ago that the South Florida venue was celebrating its latest comeback. 

Earlier this week, hints at even more changes for Bamboo Room trickled out through social-media channels. Resurrection might be the most apt word to describe its impending transformation.

Common Ground Church, which was already meeting at the venue every Sunday morning at 10 for its weekly service, will take over Bamboo Room completely beginning May 1. The 5-year-old, nondenominational church will lease the space from its previous owners, who approached the church with an offer that includes a first option to buy. They already own the similarly named Common Grounds Coffee Bar across the street, further establishing their presence in the Lake Worth area.

For anyone who might be eye-rolling at the potential ramifications of this development, Common Ground Pastor Mike Olive assures Bamboo Room will continue to offer plenty to both believers and nonbelievers. A seemingly laid-back dude, he's preaching, and stressing, the importance of inclusiveness.

“We’re going to be renting the building full-time, and we’ll be continuing the Bamboo Room," Olive says. "The church services will be on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, so it’ll four hours a week for the church, and the rest of it, we’re gonna start the music back. They haven’t had music there in quite a while now.”

He’s right. The club’s last scheduled show was in early February, and it's been a sad, slow demise since then for a venue whose new future at one time seemed so promising. Perhaps it was all meant to be, considering the plans Olive and company have in store for the space.

“We’re going to be booking bands, bringing in comedy acts, a co-op kitchen, and working with some gardeners to infuse the landscape," he says. Locals can look forward to "a lot of community activities.”

Does all of this mean Christian rock and other strains of faith music will dominate the marquee?

“It’ll be a mix," Olive says. "We’re looking at continuing some blues acts. We’ve got some communication in bringing some Christian acts and non-Christian acts — some really good music. We’re hoping to have music every Friday and Saturday, and we’re working with some comedy troupes, some improv groups from the tricounty area, hoping to have comedy every Thursday night.”

Additionally, and perhaps most important to some, the bar will remain open. Olive will have liquor-licensed caterers who will both feed the crowds and help them wash it all down with proper adult drinks.

And the building won’t lay dormant once the music stops. Olive paints a picture of an energy- and wellness-inspired space not tied into any particular doctrine.

“The Common Ground Church has always been an outreach church," he says. "One of the things we’re really trying to do is have a good, community feel to the building with different local artists. The church is definitely a part of that. It’ll never be a full-time church, as in, there won’t be church stuff every night of the week.

"We’re looking to get the community involved in helping to create a community center in the off times.[For example,] we’re going to do yoga in the mornings. We’ve got a big meeting on Monday with a bunch of yoga people. We’re hoping to get zumba in there, some exercise classes. It’s a big room, a nice room." They plan to incorporate zumba and yoga in the mornings, working with the kitchen in the downstairs co-op. "A lot of people in the kitchen are talking about putting a juice bar downstairs, specifically during the week, for the people that come in for the exercise classes, so they can relax on the patio and have a juice drink.”

The Bamboo Room will also still be available to rent out, offering its inviting, inclusive vibe to the community for mixed-use events.

Ultimately, Olive’s vision is a long-term one. He’s clearly well-acquainted with the club’s tenuous past, and his wide-ranging strategy is a forward-looking one, determined not to repeat those mistakes.

“It’s been nice," he says of Common Ground's recent progress. "The coffee shop has done well. We’re excited. It’s a great community of people... It’ll be the same concept with the Bamboo Room. It wouldn’t be strictly, 'Hey, this is a church in the middle of downtown.' No, it’s a community center — everybody’s welcome, and we’re open to being creative and making it a hot spot for the community again.

"We’re even kicking around the idea of bringing in some country concerts too. Not to get away from the blues — we want to stay true to the roots — but we also want to move it forward and make it viable and stay in business and be a music business downtown.”
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd who happens to write words (and occasionally take photos) for Miami New Times. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you. His wealth of useless knowledge concerning bands, film, and Batman is matched only by his embarrassingly large collection of Hawaiian shirts and onesies.
Contact: Angel Melendez

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