On the Horizon: Music in the Middle 

The club will feature a mix of music from rock and hip-hop to country and Americana. "We'll be like the Birchmere and 9:30 Club," Sadler says, "with a touch of the Black Cat and a bit of Jaxx in Manassas as well."

Where Toad's Place is betting on a downtown destination, the folks behind NorVa are wagering on the West End. They've purchased the former Mulligan's on West Broad, according to Brad Wells, of Sea of Sound (the production company best known locally for booking Innsbrook After Hours is a minority partner).

"We fully intend to open up a state-of-the-art NorVa-style venue," Wells says. "We had planned to open in 2005, but we are not sure that is going to be possible."

While operational details (capacity, sound levels, and parking) are still being negotiated with Henrico County, Bill Reid of Rising Tide Productions is reluctant to give specifics. "It's a complex project," Reid says. "I'll be happy to talk about it when everything is together, but it's not soup yet." One indicator of the project's continuing uncertainty is that the location is still up in the air. According to Grubb & Ellis/Harrison & Bates agent Mike Weissberg, the Mulligan's property is back on the market.

The third contender, headquartered at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, had floated a plan to build a somewhat intimate 700-seat listening room. That initiative is submerged as the company focuses on a new 1,600-seat venue in Baltimore. "As of today I can't confirm anything," says Rams Head spokeswoman Erin Brunst. "I haven't heard a lot about Richmond recently."

The competition may be intense for the remaining clubs, but the real challenge isn't in dividing up the Richmond audience, but in getting enough people to come out to make the division worthwhile. — Peter McElhinney

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