NASHUA - When Dennis Torzo and Charlie Koehler met at the Bahama Beach Club more than a decade ago - where the former was a manager and the latter a DJ - it would've been hard to envision that in 10 years they would own a club of similar proportions.
That club is Arena, a plush establishment aimed at accommodating sports bar fans and nightclub folk alike. If all goes as planned, customers will catch their favorite team on the big screen before hitting the dance floor into the wee hours.
"Charlie and Dennis wanted a place where you go into one place and get all the experiences," said Jared Bracci, head bartender at Arena. "They wanted to keep the nightclub concept, but they wanted to say, how can we take something and diversify it?"
Arena's owners didn't want to be interviewed about their new club, opting to have their chief counterman speak for them.
The bar is not entirely new. In 2007, Torzo and Koehler opened the Amber Room in the same location, formerly home to a Goodwill store. Bracci said since they thought the club had a shelf-life, a rebranding was in order. So they invested $1.3 million, closing for 10 months and reopening in October.
Connected by realist murals depicting ancient-Roman themes, Arena is divided into two sections: a sports bar and a night club. The night club features two bars, Romanesque décor and a giant disco ball. They claim to have the state's largest dance floor, largest bar, largest lightshow and largest sound system.
The sports bar side makes Arena a contender for the most square inches of TV screen, with enough televisions - including TV projections on three of the room's four walls-to show every Sunday football game simultaneously. As a nod to the customer, Arena has two high quality billiards tables available free of charge.
Bernie Del Llano, a.k.a. DJ Bernie D, is doing the booking at Arena. Wednesday features a techno-style dance night, followed by live bands and top 40 DJs through the weekend. Bernie D will bring local and national acts to Arena, where a full stage overlooks the dance floor.
Bracci, 37, was hired by Arena to head up the bar, leaving his last gig at Old Amsterdam Bar and Grill for an offer he couldn't refuse.
A friend had told him about the forthcoming club back in March. "He said they're going to hit Nashua like a tsunami," Bracci recounted. "So unless you want to be unemployed you might want to call them."
He was unsure at first whether he'd be a good fit at the new entertainment complex. But he liked the chef and grew to appreciate the two-part vision Arena's owners were proposing.
"They were just nice guys, and I thought why not be a part of something that's going to be really big in Nashua," Bracci said. "And that was it."
Dave Seymonds is the chef at Arena. The offerings run the gamut of bar foods, from wings and burgers to soups and salads. "The way I see it is people come in here on a (weekend) and have appetizers and dinner, leisurely drinks, and from there they can relax a little bit after dinner and by that time the nightclub is open," Seymonds said.
He worked with the owners on a menu that would include some family dishes and improvised recipes made specially for the new establishment, like the Arena pizza, a thin-crust pie that contains virtually every ingredient.
"The theme behind was to have a sports bar menu, with some entrees to make it a little more upscale than your typical sports bar - the scampi, the baked haddock, traditional New England type food."
Arena's owners are taking the long view on their newly renovated establishment: They plan for it to become the flagship for a franchise, though the details are on the distant horizon.
The sports bar is open Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., and on weekends from noon to 1 a.m. The nightclub is open Wednesday through Saturday.
Arena employs about 90 people and is accepting applications. They're located at 53 High St. in Nashua.