Drink espresso, see a cult classic, buy a punk record or watch a ska show. Ark-a’ik is a booze-free venue all ages can enjoy
Unless it involves nudity, novelty often doesn’t fare well in Nevada. A Flintstones-themed swingers’ club would probably be a smash hit in Reno. All-ages joints with cool ambiance and eclectic music have a habit of disappearing off the face of Reno’s downtown within months of their opening, leaving a big old bald patch in the all-ages scene—and leaving youngsters with no place to hear live music on a Saturday night.
Steve Peto, owner of Ark-a’ik—a coffeehouse, record store and alcohol-free nightclub on Fourth Street—grew up in Chicago, where there was no such problem.
“When I was growing up, there were probably three or four all-ages venues to go to. I was never stuck on the street. I think the youth of Reno are really neglected, and it could create a problem in the future.”
A place to gather and hear bands, he says, transforms anger, despondency or boredom into something positive.
“When there’s nothing for kids to do, they could go on a bad road. Music is a good outlet for all that angst.”
Ark-a’ik (the phonetic spelling of the word “archaic") is more than just a live music venue. The front room is a record shop, with records and CDs that range from Buddy Holly and Little Richard to underground punk and goth. The curtained door in the back of the room opens to reveal a huge space that has the dark, industrial look of a warehouse. The walls are brick; the floor is cement.
To the left is a cafe that serves coffee and pastries. Against the opposite wall is a stage, surrounded by ample space for dancing. But retro-style chairs and big, comfy couches in the middle of the room suggest that this is a place for hanging out and talking, not just grooving.
“I just wanted to mix the arts as much as possible,” Peto says. “That’s why I started the record store.”
On the Saturday night I checked out Ark-a’ik, local punk band Chico Escuela was getting ready to take the stage. I looked around at the crowd. Some wore studded belts (which are now being sold at Target and are no longer a sign of teenage rebellion), but there was no wild hair, no lethal-weapon jewelry, no young faces contorted in angst. When Chico Escuela took the stage, no riotous moshing occurred.
“Punk shows are about having fun,” I heard one young guy say to his friends. “Not about violence.”
And Ark-a’ik doesn’t just cater to the punk crowd, rowdy or otherwise. The venue is host to ska, new wave, jazz and rock bands too.
“The object was to offer good unknown and out-of-state bands,” Peto says. “The place is starting to get well-known on the West Coast as a stopping ground for more nationally known bands.”
Peto is also bringing in movies—particularly movies of the avant garde and cult classic variety. The Great Basin Film Society shows movies there on weeknights, and Peto plans to do a series of midnight movie showings—during which he will serve beer—starting with A Clockwork Orange.
“Being as this is a rock ‘n’ roll venue, I like to get more of the rock ‘n’ roll side of movies," he says.