The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick was 10 years ago, but the impact of the blaze on Rhode Island hasn’t diminished at all. In West Warwick, The Station fire, caused by a pyrotechnics display gone wrong, marked the end of live music in the town – until now. Seeing the return of live music as a chance to heal and help invigorate the community, veteran Providence club manager and magazine editor Jim Vickers converted an old mill on the Pawtuxet River into Manchester 65, a rock club that opened in early August. The club specializes in classic rock – in many cases features bands that wouldn’t have been out of place at The Station – and has so far received a warm reception.
PBN: Why did you decide to come to West Warwick?
VICKERS: Providence nightlife has become a little like the Middle East in terms of it being a war zone. You read every week about a stabbing or shooting or riot at a Providence nightclub and I got to thinking that maybe Providence isn’t the best place to have a live-music venue. I have made kind of a career of, when everyone goes right, I go left. The city really takes so many fees that make it difficult to do business. So I have a friend who has a company called We Love Lofts. He deals exclusively with mill spaces and I asked him if there were any spaces suitable for a midsize, live-music venue. And he got me down here to the Evolution Mills in West Warwick and they had some old space. … There is an outdoor courtyard that overlooks the Pawtuxet River. There is a pond there and a little waterfall. … It’s pretty idyllic.
PBN: What was the mill before you got it?
VICKERS: Some kind of textiles, no one was really sure. It hadn’t been touched in 20 or 30 years. It used to be called Crompton Mill.