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Chariots of Fire 

It's 8:30 on a Saturday night, and Ben Cater is supposed to be getting ready to spin. Only problem is, he doesn't have any equipment. "Brainchild was supposed to leave me his gear." But he didn't. "I had a great set to play tonight, too, just gut-wrenching soul. I bought some Nina Simone today, some Otis Redding." So instead we're at the bar, talking about his gut-wrenching decision to sell the B-Side.

Ironically, he says, the moment he started thinking about closing shop, people began offering to help save his club. Only trouble is, most of the people who like the idea of a place like the B-Side rarely ever actually hang out there. They have "better things to do," says Cater, "or healthier things to do." It's indicative of a mindset that usually saw the club packed to capacity, but only for about three hours at a time, three or so days a week. And, between rent, wages and taxes, Cater says, nine hours doesn't come close to floating a place like the B-Side. "It never got to where it was real enjoyable because it was never really profitable. We were always living hand to mouth," Cater says, getting to the point where he entertained hosting a little bingo every week to milk play from a nearby retirement home.

Living hand to mouth is exactly what Joe Golliher, who bought the B-Side, is trying to avoid, and to do so, he's putting in the one resource Cater laments never being able to supply, money. "We're going to gut the joint," Golliher says. In addition to renaming it the Spread, Golliher plans to put down hardwood floors, redo the bar top, renovate the kitchen and virtually rebuild the famously nauseating bathroom. There are changes coming to the program as well. He's consigning live music to the weekends, hoping to drum up more happy hour business during the week and, while he's keeping hip-hop around, Golliher wants "to branch out." In addition to having an open mic and karaoke, he wants to "book acts like Too Slim and Cary Fly."

For the time being, Cater will stay on at the Spread, in charge of booking the kinds of shows he digs and, according to Golliher, "helping me get up to speed." Beyond that advisory role, though -- and beyond the obvious sadness of watching a three-year labor of love come to an end -- Cater is pretty optimistic. For one, he wants to write more about the funk, soul and hip-hop he loves. He's also working on getting the Black Cellar -- a wine bar and breakfast joint owned by the Raw Sushi guys -- up and running. "I've been sitting on this idea for a long time. Having a breakfast place with DJs playing rhythm and blues. So we think that's going to happen."

His eyes really light up, though, when he talks about resurrecting another business plan he had even before opening the B-Side. "I'm about to get back into the rickshaw business," he says. "Ultimately my goal is to have a ... rickshaw race. From downtown to Browne's Addition and looping back - it'll be like a Corporate Cup," he says, smiling. "Every business pays a fee and enters a three-man team -- one puller and two in the back.

"They'd definitely put that on ESPN. 'Look at these crazy people in Spokane,'" he laughs. "It'll be like Chariots of Fire." In other words, an underdog story.

The Last Hip-Hop Show at the B-Side with Blue Scholars, Shaman, Terms None, Locke & amp; DJ Parafyn is on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 9 pm. Tickets: $5; free for women before 9 pm. Call 624-7631.

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