KUNA — There’s a wood-framed black sandwich sign in front of the Arlene building with the words “Open Big Mic’s.”

Wait, when did that happen?

Owners Mike and Marisol Larson opened the bar July 1, but its grand opening is still to be determined.

In the meantime, Mike and Marisol Larson and their staff are serving up cold ones at the bar, which Mike Larson sanded and lacquered himself.

Eighteen craft and domestic beers are on tap, including some local ones. Above the front room bar taps are five 4K Smart TVs, with sports, news and other programs on.

If that’s not your scene, head a little farther back toward the fireplace and red couches. Five more 4K Smart TVs are peppered throughout the backroom space. The building provides a set-up for two different bar atmospheres.

“The back bar is kind of honky-tonk, country kind of theme," Marisol Larson said. "And the front part of the building is the original historic part of the building and that’s ... I guess ... the sports bar and music venue theme going throughout the whole thing.”

Mike and Marisol Larson envision Big Mic’s to be a place of sports, music and country atmosphere, and, most importantly, a place of comfort where everyone is welcome and feels at home.

“The big intention is we wanted something really light outside and that said ‘welcome’ when you drove by, and that everybody feels welcome,” Mike Larson said. “Whether they’re a sports enthusiast or a music enthusiast, comedy, biker, whatever, we don’t want anybody to ever feel intimidated.”

DO YOU SERVE FOOD, TOO?

Big Mic’s offers assorted beer, wine, liquor and nonalcoholic beverages.

If you don’t see something to your fancy, just ask. Marisol Larson said almost every time somebody asks for something Big Mic’s doesn’t have she will write it down and try to get it in.

Big Mic’s doesn’t offer food — yet.

Mike Larson envisions a kitchen, which is his next project, in the adjoining area of the Arlene and the nextdoor building, which used to be Kuna True Value and Kuna Hardware. The total space is about 4,300 square feet, Mike Larson said. He thinks Big Mic’s will only need about 800 square feet for its kitchen.

He hopes that adjoining building will be turned into a restaurant.

“We’re hoping to entice another venue like an Italian restaurant,” Mike Larson said. “Or a steakhouse or a different option for Kuna right downtown here.”

So for those hungry bar patrons, Mike and Marisol Larson encourage them to bring food from local establishments such as Enrique’s, Lima Limon, the Red Eye Saloon. These three businesses will deliver the ordered food to Big Mic’s.

“We’re trying to support the surrounding businesses as we can until we get our kitchen open, and after,” Mike Larson said. “It’s user-friendly for the community and the businesses.”

NEW FEATURES

The front of the 107-year-old building is historic, which Mike Larson has preserved with the windows and restored hardwood floor and bar. The back wood-paneled barn doors are also original and restored by Mike Larson.

Outside those doors is a new patio, furnished, with two grills and a commercial smoker.

Remodeling and opening a new bar and restaurant is not Mike’s first rodeo. He’s built a lot of bars and restaurants in Minneapolis, where he’s from.

“I guess my forté has kind of been to take properties that are in small communities where the farming has kind of gone and the community has gone down and try to build something out of the old buildings,” Mike Larson said. “Try to breathe some new life into them.”

That’s not to say remodeling the Arlene building didn’t come without its challenges. The building had no sprinkler system, which is now a fire code requirement.

The Larsons put in a wireless smoke and fire alarm system with horns and strobe lights and an emergency pull station by each door. There are no sprinklers.

Kuna Fire Chief Perry Palmer said while he has not personally worked with the Larsons and the building inspector, the fire department has worked with the inspector to make sure everything is up to code. He explained certain buildings don't have to have sprinkler systems because code requirements dictate that buildings meet the code that was enforced at the time the building was built, not necessarily present day codes. 

“The sprinklers were never an issue with me,” Mike Larson said. “For me I just asked the fire chief what his expectations were and I met them.”

Mike Larson said remodeling the historical building was 20 times more work than he thought, but he also knows developers run into unexpected things in old buildings. He added that to his knowledge, the building is the only commercial historic building in Kuna on the national register.

“It’s a labor of love more than anything,” Mike Larson said. “My wife and I did 99 percent of the work in here from laying brick to carpentry work.”

Once the kitchen is open, Mike and Marisol Larson plan to reclassify and relicense the bar as a restaurant, so youth can come, including those who want a place to play their music. Mike Larson said that’s why the original name for the bar was Open Mic’s.

“I wanted to have a music venue,” Mike Larson said. “There’s just a lot of people that are musically inclined but they don’t have a venue and they don’t have that exposure that it takes them so long to blossom because they are kind of in a shell. That was our original idea, to have a venue where anyone can open up their guitar case and start playing. Open Mic was kind of the venue …"

“However,” Marisol chimed in, “This guy here,” she points to Mike Larson. “We have two Michaels in the family. They call this guy 'Big Mike' … so my brother and I were sitting down one day and my brother said, ‘Hey, what about Big Mic’s?’ Bingo, that’s it. And it was just meant to be.”

Alx George is the Kuna Melba News reporter. Contact her at 208-922-3008 or editor@kunamelba.com.

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