Bringing back nightlife

  • Amanda Riseling, co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Nhan Bui and Jeremy Werther talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeremy Werther, co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Amanda Riseling, and Nhan Bui talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nhan Bui , co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Amanda Riseling and Jeremy Werther talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amanda Riseling, co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Nhan Bui and Jeremy Werther talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nhan Bu, Amanda Riseling, and Jeremy Werther, all co-owners of Tellus and the Satellite Bar talk about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amanda Riseling, co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Nhan Bui and Jeremy Werther talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nhan Bui , co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Amanda Riseling and Jeremy Werther talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A neon sign above the bar at Tellus and the Satellite Bar, co-owned by Jeremy Werther, Amanda Riseling and Nhan Bui, in Northampton. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jeremy Werther, co-owner of Tellus and the Satellite Bar with Amanda Riseling, and Nhan Bui talks about the vision for the space combining food and a night club option on the weekends. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 9/22/2022 3:56:28 PM
Modified: 9/22/2022 3:55:50 PM

At 9 p.m. on a balmy Friday, my friends and I stood outside Tellus & the Satellite Bar, while the host checked our IDs and welcomed each of us by name.

“You’re the second group here,” she said proudly. “We just opened a few minutes ago.” Dark curls streaked with violet framed her face; the color glinted in the streetlight.

Smiling and introducing herself as Amanda Riseling, co-owner of the new nightclub and restaurant, she admitted that she didn’t quite know what to expect that night. Neither did her business partners, Nhan Bui and Jeremy Werther.

They’ve taken over a space in Thornes Marketplace that most recently belonged to Patria, one of many Northampton businesses that did not survive the pandemic. This was their first “Flashback Friday” — a throwback in its own right, and a nod to Bui’s once-beloved themed dance nights at The Basement. Yet it was time to usher in something new, something yet to be defined.

My friends and I filed inside. Though the lights were dim, the bar gleamed while Bui poured a freshly juiced watermelon martini. (Werther, whose culinary mastery would be showcased when the restaurant opened, gave Bui a hand as a line formed outside.) DJs Snack Attack and Trends, Bui’s longtime colleagues at The Basement, were set up in the corner, bobbing their heads as the first brave souls inched their way toward the floor.

My group shyly staked out the spacious back corner, where, less than two hours later, we were shoulder-to-shoulder with 21-to-60-somethings and, wow, it was getting hot in there. When Whitney’s 1987 classic about dancing dropped, the crowd wasn’t just moving, they were belting out the lyrics during DJ Trends’ well-timed pauses:

“Oh, I wanna dance with somebody/ I wanna feel the heat with somebody/ Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody/ With somebody who loves me.”

Sure, it sounded more like shouting than singing, but it made sense: No one had flexed their vocals in over two years, so who cared? As Bui would email afterwards, “We’re just so happy to have a space where people can be free and a little wild again.” On their opening weekend, Sept. 9 and 10, more than 600 people let loose at Tellus.

“We met right there,” Werther tells me two weeks later, gesturing toward the 17-seat bar in a nearly empty restaurant.

Sporting a maroon UMass Amherst cap in honor of his alma mater, he says that in a time before curfews and closings, the bar was an after-hours hangout for others in the industry. After long days at Homestead, an Italian eatery on Strong Ave. that he’s helmed successfully since 2018, he’d trudge to Main Street and inevitably run into Bui and Riseling, who then managed Patria.

It’s easy to imagine their growing camaraderie. They sit together so comfortably now, easily finishing each other’s sentences, all eager to get to work.

Werther has a Matt Damon vibe — affable, quick to laugh and laugh heartily, but thoughtful, ever-watchful, with “wheels that never stop.” Bui, a towering but gentle presence, is a veritable encyclopedia of Northampton nightlife. But growing up in western Mass., his first impression of the city was so … sweet: “It used to be … it was a place you could go and feel a little more grown-up than you were and still get candy,” he says earnestly, cracking everyone up.

Riseling, whose vibrant curls match the bar’s new neon purple sign (“come as you are,” it beckons) says that when the three first crossed paths, she was planning to leave the business.

“I had this fantasy of an office job and, you know, grown-up clothes,” she says wistfully. After she dug deep, she wanted to explore possibilities within an industry she loved, no matter what.

“A breaking point comes and goes every day,” affirms Werther, “and restaurants push through it because we’re here to take care of people.”

That became the heart of all their conversations at the bar, a kind-of oasis-turned-island as the city shut down earlier and earlier. When Patria closed, all three saw an opportunity to be “broken open,” to create an inclusive space for everyone to come — and stay.

“What is that beautiful Japanese art where they fill in all the cracks with gold?” Riseling suddenly asks. Bui furrows his eyebrows; Werther immediately Googles the answer: kintsugi.

It’s sculpture that has been shattered and put back together, its pieces both rejoined and reimagined. Before and after hover along its cracks, from where, eventually, it shimmers.

“The Satellite Bar” came first, a name for the, well, bar-like aspect of the trio’s vision. Then they added Tellus, a many-layered moniker for the restaurant that, among other things, means Roman goddess of the Earth; pays homage to an iconic New York speakeasy, Please Don’t Tell; and was inspired by a friend’s gin gimlet cheekily called “Shh, Don’t Tell Us.”

The restaurant was supposed to launch before the bar, but the new owners were at the mercy of an industry that is collectively rebuilding.

So the Satellite Bar got things rolling with Flashback Friday, with plans to center every Friday and Saturday night on a different theme, from Queer Raves to Emo/Punk Nights. While Tellus won’t be fully operational until October, this week the restaurant debuted some of what Werther calls its “elevated comfort food”: a Wagyu Double Smash Burger, “Mom’s Egg Rolls” (Cha Gio) and Charred Radicchio Salad.

Mark your calendars for a second soft opening on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 5 to 8 p.m. And in the future, expect pizza, seasonal cocktails and nonalcoholic beverages, and maybe even wine flights.

For now, there’s a space to be wild, a Satellite on a shifting and shimmering orbit — where disco lights light the way.

Follow Tellus & the Satellite Bar on Facebook and Instagram.

Melissa Karen Sances moved recently from Boston to Easthampton, where she’s writing a memoir and uncovering human interest stories that celebrate her new home. She’s been published in the The Boston Globe, the Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine and Vero Beach Magazine and can be reached at melissaksances@gmai.com.

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