Emmanuel Asprakis has been bringing big musical names to his little lounge at Bozzini’s for 15 years. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Bringing big musicians to a small venue at Bozzini’s in Chilliwack

The local restaurant has been hosting concerts featuring Juno award winners for 15 years

It’s probably one of the smallest music venues in the country, but there have been some big names that have performed there.

This year marks 15 years of live music at the intimate Bozzini’s Upstairs Lounge.

Owner Emmanuel Asprakis has been the one behind bringing award-winning bands and musicians to the cozy space located above the restaurant’s main dining area. And although he is not a musician himself, he is a huge music fan which is the reason why he does it.

The shows at Bozzini’s began shortly after he put together a handful of concerts at both the old arts centre and the former UFV theatre about 20 years ago.

He loved bringing folk, rock and country musicians to those two venues, but he didn’t love the cost behind it.

So after the restaurant underwent renovations in the early 2000s, which included the addition of the upstairs lounge, Asprakis decided to add some live entertainment.

Even though the room wasn’t built specifically for concerts – rather for parties and as a lounging space – Asprakis soon realized it actually was a good venue for live music… plus he realized something else.

“I don’t have to pay any rent,” he laughs.

The shows at Bozzini’s are small. Very small – the lounge seats just 32 people.

“I thought it was too small at first, and then after seeing the scope of things I [thought] this could work,” Asprakis said. “If you go by square footage of the room, the bands do really well.”

When you step into Bozzini’s Upstairs Lounge, you might wonder how there’s any room for a band to play. The room is filled with custard- and eggplant-coloured lounge chairs and small booths which overlook a fireplace and a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

But shimmy a few small tables to the side and there’s just enough room for the band to set up in front of the fireplace. The seating is so close to the “stage” that audience members could probably touch the musicians.

For Bozzini’s first concert in 2005, Asprakis called up Canadian country singer-songwriter Gary Fjellgaard who actually performed at one of Asprakis’s shows at the old UFV theatre.

The announcement of Fjellgaard’s upcoming show was so successful, Asprakis had to add three more shows (two concerts in two nights) because the first one sold out.

“We kept adding [Fjellgaard’s shows] on because we kept selling them,” he recalled.

READ MORE: Bozzini’s 300th show features trio of bands in Chilliwack

In September of 2019, Bozzini’s celebrated its 300th concert and over the years Asprakis has brought in countless artist, many of them award-winners. Musicians include Jim Byrnes, Zappacosta, T. Nile, Sue Foley, Harpdog Brown, Shari Ulrich, Matt Andersen, Grapes of Wrath, and members of bands like Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and The Northern Pikes. The talent comes from all over North America, as well as places like England, Australia and Spain.

You’ll mostly hear folk, rock, country and blues at Bozzini’s, but there have been a few other types of entertainment like traditional Danish music, Greek music and comedians.

So how does a small venue like Bozzini’s constantly get big names to perform there?

“I guess you just ask,” he said honestly. “A lot of musicians go to places they trust… places they’re comfortable. It’s not always [about] the money.”

He does it all for the love of music and admits there’s not really any profit from the ticket sales with so few seats available – all the money goes to the bands and the majority of the concerts sell out.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad show. It’s been a range from pretty good to excellent,” he said.

The next concerts at Bozzini’s Upstairs Lounge are: Big Little Lions on Sunday, March 8 at 8 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.), tickets $15; and Little Miss Higgins Trio on Friday, March 20 at 9:30 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.), tickets $25. Tickets available at Bozzini’s or call 604-792-0744 to reserve by phone. Visit bozzinisrestaurant.ca/events for more details.

RELATED: Check out what else is happening in Chilliwack with our weekly Seven Days listing


 

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Email: jenna.hauck@theprogress.com
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Big Little Lions performs on Sunday, March 8. (Submitted)

Little Miss Higgins returns to Bozzini’s on March 20. (Submitted)

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