AURA Nightclub, Venue and Lounge, a newly opened space at 411 S. Mill Avenue, is certainly unique to the area surrounding ASU’s campus.
Billed as a venue for local large-scale companies to host corporate events, and a stylish nightclub and music venue in the evenings, owner Narender Raju hopes to add another element to the already vibrant Mill Avenue scene.
With some of the Valley’s best music technology, including a large stage with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, and even VIP bottle service reservation technology online, AURA fits right into what Millennials might expect from a venue that hopes to attract some of the world’s best performing musicians on a regular basis.
Raju and executive director Cahleb Branch have been partners for nearly five years, after opening The Pressroom, a concert venue in downtown Phoenix. Neither originally hails from Phoenix – Raju comes from Chicago; Branch from the Bay Area – and one of the club’s main goals is to present a true music and party venue similar to the ones they grew up going to.
“We don’t feel like there are that many clubs in Arizona that fit the bill of what we’re used to seeing,” Raju says. “What we wanted to do is bring that feel and flavor here.”
Because they believe the space is so different from other venues in the area, both in ambiance and clientele, Raju says the goal is not to compete with other popular clubs, but add another option.
Raju says the competition is with other areas around the Valley, like Scottsdale or downtown Phoenix, where those looking for a more formal club setting tend to flock, instead of staying in Tempe.
“A lot of people ask us whether it’s competition. It’s not that; it’s that we’re something totally different on the street, and we’re trying to add to Mill Avenue instead of trying to take customers from the other places,” Raju says. “We thought Mill was missing that piece. There are a lot of cool bars, a lot of great places, but it’s missing that nightclub venue, and that’s what we’re trying to be.”
Since the club’s official opening in early April, Branch says the club has received numerous positive reactions, especially from younger crowds. College freshmen and sophomores, usually under the age of 21, are welcome at AURA.
Knowing students, specifically those at ASU, will likely comprise most of their customers, Branch says the goal of opening up to the underage crowd will provide a safe space for younger students to party, while still being safe and legal.
“We’re the only 18-plus club in the city, but only on Thursdays as a college night, to give something back to them,” Branch says. “Functioning as an 18-plus club, the bar is still open on the other side. Those who are legal can still buy drinks, and it’s just segregated from the other area, where we have a juice bar.”
Also, in an attempt to attract more college students, Branch says the club has placed a large emphasis on attracting campus Greek life, to which a lot of ASU’s student population belongs.
A lot of local fraternities and sororities have members under the legal drinking age, which can severely limit the options the houses have to host events or socials.
“It’s kind of a place where they can all come and hang out together, but the ones that are 21 or older can still drink in the bar but leave their drink at the bar area and come boogey down in the dance room,” Branch says.
In addition to these formal events, the large, 45-by-15-foot stage can be utilized for house DJs, aspiring artists that are members of the groups or those hired by the organizations to host their parties, which can give the performers exposure and experience.
“Greek life is a big part of a lot of students’ college experience. But they don’t always have a venue to (host parties), so it’s in someone’s home or their house, and we want to be somewhere they can count on to be safe, but give that true feel they’ve wanted the whole time. Having their own DJ makes it even more convenient for them,” Branch says.
Moving forward, Raju says the club will consistently change its look, as well as the types of artists that perform on a weekly basis, to offer a different experience and atmosphere.
With dozens of different light projectors, and changeable walls, the look of the facility can literally change overnight.
“We want to be a spot on Mill that is all-encompassing, and that people can come to every night to see national-level artists and DJs on a weekly basis, without even looking at the calendar,” he says. “You walk into the door, and you know you’re going to see something great, regardless of the night you’re there.”
An event calendar, as well as information about bottle service and private events, can be viewed on the club’s website.
AURA Nightclub Tempe, 411 S. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480.210.2872, auratempe.com, @auratempe.