‘Rustic & Modern’ With a View New Event Space Opens Downtown



Photography by Wes Battoclette

How about this for something completely different located right in downtown Cincinnati: A central space that is classy, not stuffy; cozy, yet big enough to hold a sizable event; with an outdoor terrace overlooking the theater district, as well? 

Such a place has been quietly open in downtown for several months. The newly renovated Backstage Event Center, on Walnut, directly across from the Aronoff Center, is unique, with inviting architecture of exposed brick, hardwood floors, sliding wooden doors and an art-deco style elevator. The venue’s expansive windows bestow natural light and sweeping views of the city.  

The location currently serves up to 150 guests, with an expansion to increase capacity to 300 by mid-2016.     

Gary Smith, Nicholson’s general manager, knows they have something distinctive. “We’re not a ballroom, or a typical hotel banquet room,” Smith explained. 

It is also one of the few downtown event spaces with a second floor terrace overlooking the city, along with functional seating and room to host a cocktail reception.

Location is another plus for Backstage. The venue is located within a few blocks of hotels, churches and plenty of entertainment options.

But, as Smith added, it takes more than location to pull off successful events, “Everything comes down to the details, and that’s where we stand out.” 

Overseeing many of those details is Kelly Schneider, Backstage Event Center’s sales manager. She describes the interior as “rustic and elegant.” Schneider says the open design allows for the space to be styled as casual or upscale. “We work with each individual to create the feel based on their vision,” she says. “And, of course, when it comes to weddings, we cater to the bride!”

Schneider, who has been with the group for 10 years, also serves as chief event planner. She says in its first months Backstage has been popular for intimate weddings, rehearsal dinners, and post-wedding brunches. “The brunches are really ‘in’ right now,” Schneider says. “It’s a fun, relaxed opportunity for the bride and groom to enjoy time with friends and family before everyone goes their separate ways.”

The Backstage culinary team offers an extensive food and beverage package. One member of that team, Nicholson’s executive chef Jeff Poore, says that when it comes to making an occasion truly special, the menu matters. “Food brings people together and creates the soul of an event,” says Poore. “We encourage the host to work directly with us to plan the perfect menu.” 

The cozy space would appear to be a natural fit in an area of a building that has been in need of a tenant with some staying power. The spot was formerly a pizzeria, a nightclub, then restaurant – the latter closed over two years ago. In early 2015, Tavern Restaurant Group, which has operated Nicholson’s next door for 17 years, took over the space and set about transforming the interior. 

The group also opened the Horse & Barrel Bourbon House on the first floor below Backstage. The bar operates Tue. – Sat., but can also be rented for private events, creating a multi-level event space. 

Smith believes their model fills a needed niche in the downtown event scene, “We offer an authentic, stylish venue that’s more affordably priced than our competitors. There’s no place like downtown to have an event, and there’s no other venue quite like the Backstage Event Center in downtown.”

Backstage Event Center is located at 625 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can reach them at 513.550.1869 or visit their website at www.backstagecincinnati.com.