Aiming for sense of community at Meyers nightclub with artistic bent
Brian Levy is the owner of The Divided Sky , a Meyers bar that has gained a reputation as a genuine locals’ place that hosts a variety of out-of-town and local bands. The 31-year-old Levy has lived here on and off for eight years after relocating from Berkeley. The Divided Sky has been open three years.
Usually a quiet and Zen-like presence at the bar, he spoke with us about the trials and rewards of helping to build a community in a small mountain town.
When you opened The Divided Sky, what was your intention? It was to create a sense of community out here in Meyers, rather than going into town.
Did you intend it to be the social scene of Meyers? Very much so. I wanted it to be a community center, a place where you see and meet other people that live a half-a-mile away from you. I think that’s worked to a large degree. But I would say our clientele is still only 5 percent of the population out here.
There’s still people that come in after us being here for three years that say, “Hey we haven’t even been here before.”
To you, is this more of a bar or restaurant? To me it’s more of a bar, it functions as a bar, because that’s what the community supports. People tend to congregate around the social custom of drinking.
Do you have a restaurant background? I went to Berkeley for four years and got a BA in conservation studies. I think that’s what stemmed my interest in Tahoe and being in the outdoors. I came up here to snowboard and got a job at Lake Tahoe Pizza Company. After going to Europe for a winter, I craved coming back to Tahoe and creating a community here. This is a tough town to have a community in.
Why do you think that is? I think in part it’s because people come and go. I think more so, community develops around people doing the same thing. Coming from Berkeley and living in houses with 15 people, you are immersed in community whether you like it or not.
How do you like owning a bar? You see a lot of the plus sides of people having a good time together, but you also see the negative sides that it is a bar.
But it didn’t start that way, it started out as a beer bar.
It started out as a beer bar, and part of that was I wanted to create a place where people could hang out together.
I am kind of a quiet person and suddenly I’m in a position of talking to people all the time. That’s great for me, my development as a person. But that’s challenging at times. Every bartender knows that sometimes you don’t want to talk.
For the most part the people that come in here are people that I’m friends with now.
Why do people like to come here? This is a positive space and for the most part it attracts positive people that bring a positive feeling to it.
But it is a bar, and as much as I want people to leave their egos at the door; they don’t always do it.
How do you bring so many bands into town? A lot of things contribute to that. For one, there aren’t a lot of venues in Tahoe. For bands, it has a mystique, you know, a beautiful mountain town. But a lot of them, it’s on their way to somewhere else, east on Highway 50, and this is a good stopping point. Most of the bands that play here enjoy the energy and the crowds that come here, so they continue to play here.
This never was intended to be a music venue, but it just developed that way. I don’t promise to have a show every Friday night. I don’t call bands, people call us. If a good band is coming through town, we’ll have a show.
Are they ever surprised at the size of the space?
This first thing I say is, “You know how big we are, we’re really small.” And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Do you ever think about moving to a bigger place?
Not really, I enjoy this space so much and for Meyers, it’s a good size. No one wants a place that is so big you lose the intimacy of it.
For instance Radioactive played last night and he’s said he enjoys this venue because of its intimacy and it’s small enough that you can see every person in here and look them in the eye.
Do you have any goals for The Divided Sky? If I could make it more accessible to a larger part of the community out here, to more families. That would be a positive direction if I’m really going to get this place to be as big a part of the community as I want it to be.
It seems like you try to support the arts.
We’re supportive of anything that enhances our culture here. Living in the mountains, we’re a little devoid of cultural stimulation.
Is it fun?
Every single day you have one interaction or a dozen interactions that feel good and you get jazzed on it. I think with everything in life, it sort of balances out, and as long as the positive outweighs the negative, it’s a good thing.