KU student mixes bartending, DJing

Business owner offers his spin on smoking ban

Bartender and disc jockey Nick Reddell has become a fixture in the Lawrence nightlife scene.

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Courtney Kuhlen/Journal-World Photos

Disc jockey Nick Reddell cues up a song at a Chi Omega party. The party was Friday night at the Alvamar Country Club, 1809 Crossgate Drive. Reddell played everything from holiday songs to hip-hop. At top, Reddell listens to his headphones to prepare another song. Below, he makes an adjustment to his mixing board.

He entered the business as a Kansas University freshman who manned the back door at a bar on Massachusetts Street. Five years later, he owns his own DJ company and has 10 employees. He has worked at more than a dozen bars in Lawrence and provides music for most of the fraternity and sorority parties.

Wherever Reddell works, the crowds follow. Just ask Greg Mann, general manager at Quinton's Bar and Deli, who said the hiring of Reddell turned Tuesday back into a hot night.

Q: When did you get your start in the DJ business?

A: I started during the second part of my freshman year. I worked for a guy named Scott Simpson. He still operates his business today. He's actually my good friend and my biggest competitor.

Q: Did you apply to all of the places you have worked, or did they seek you out?

A: It's kind of a 50-50 thing. I started my own company when I was bartending, and those bars let me DJ. Sometimes I have approached places, but a couple bars did approach me and ask me to put together a crew.

Q: What do you do when you go to a new bar to attract business?

A: Well, there are certain bars that are more my demographic because I do deal a lot with the Greek community. When I walk into these bars, I'll tell them that I've got DJs in these other bars and I do the Greek parties, so I already have contacts in that community, which is important to them. Because when it comes down to it, that's who spends the most money. They are the kids whose parents are putting money into their bank accounts. All of my DJs are in houses. I use that in my pitch. I say, 'All my guys are in houses. So when they DJ, they're going to bring in their friends, who in turn are going to bring in their other friends.' On the other side, that guarantees me their houses' business when they have parties.

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Courtney Kuhlen/Journal-World Photo

Q: When somebody else DJs, do they still call that DJ Nick Reddell?

A: Yeah. When I advertise -- I do my own advertising -- we pass out a lot of handbills. When I'm trying to get a bar going, I'll pass out handbills on campus, so the students know what's going on. We use DJ Nick Reddell because that's how I started -- by myself. I didn't come up with that. The first bar I worked at did, and it unfortunately stuck. I do try to make an appearance at every event. But if I can't, I try to shuffle my schedule so I can work one or two nights a month at each bar. That way I keep in good relations with all the bar owners.

Q: Well, I imagine your business must be hurting from the smoking ban.

A: Not really. Actually my business has been better this year than it ever has before. I've got a lot of bars that we do every week. The worst part of the business this year is that there have been fewer Greek parties. It has been real tough with scheduling since the sororities have been having problems with their catering company. The sororities are retreating to bars, which hurts my business because the parties normally happen at a bar where I already would have had a DJ. But the bar business has been better than ever.

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Courtney Kuhlen/Journal-World Photo

Q: Then why are so many people complaining about the smoking ban?

A: I don't know. As a person who spends six nights a week in a bar and doesn't smoke, I love it. People say it's infringing upon their rights. I think you can look at it both ways. I think it's a right for somebody to go and sit in a public place and not have to breathe dirty air. The smoking ban is just one of those things that gives people something to complain about.

Q: Do you have any plans for the future?

A: I'd like to keep the DJ thing going strong in Lawrence. I'd also like to expand into Kansas City, because that's where I'm from. I think there is a large market back there, and I think it would be easy to handle. If I'm back there, I would like to eventually open a bar or a restaurant because I feel like I've gotten pretty experienced doing that.

Q: What are the perks of working at bars?

About Nick Reddell

  • Age: 23.
  • Hometown: Kansas City.
  • Major: Communications.
  • Hours left to graduate: 2. He graduates this semester.
  • How he's getting those hours: Coaching basketball correspondence class.
  • Years in the bar business: 6.
  • Number of employees: 10.
  • Favorite bar that doesn't employ him: The Sandbar, 117 E. Eighth St.

A: The first thing is that I've gotten to meet thousands of people. Everywhere I go, I feel like I know somebody. The nights I do decide to go, because I've made so many contacts, I don't have to wait in line or deal with the crowds that maybe a normal patron might have to, which is nice.

Q: Has the bar business changed since you've been in Lawrence?

A: I think it has changed dramatically. It's not nearly as stable as it used to be. The biggest night used to be Thursday, but now it's shifted more to the weekend. I don't feel like people go out as much as they used to. I don't know if that has to do with the economy or what. Plus, there are more bars. I think the bar scene has become watered down.

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