Hospitality, evolving: Aspen market seen as proving ground for new Gala, Madame Ushi concept | Arts & Entertainment

It’s 1 a.m., and Saturday night is now Sunday morning in Aspen. Walking through the pedestrian mall on Hyman Avenue, the streets are quiet, dusted by snow and strung in lights. The town seems asleep.

But local night owls and frequent partygoers all know the silence is only an illusion. Beneath the town’s streets is where the music pulses and the people dance. Nightlife likes to thrive below ground — in places like Escobar, Sterling and Caribou — it’s an ongoing trend in Aspen’s club scene.

Joining the trend is a new venue on — or rather, below — the block.

Named Gala, after artist Salvador Dalí’s muse, the nightclub and its counterpart Japanese restaurant, Madame Ushi (also named to evoke femininity), have together taken over and transformed the former 7908 Supper Club space at 415 E. Hyman Ave. Two paired establishments that fall under the same Miami-based ownership, Gala and Madame Ushi officially opened on Dec. 29.

Since opening, the dual concept has remained somewhat low key in terms of any above-ground chatter about what’s going on in the venue. But down below, the two women-inspired venues have been quite active over the past couple months.

The energy at 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Gala is often palpable. Enclosed in a flow of moving lights and unfiltered sound, dancing is natural in the intimate space and time is no longer of the essence.

“I mean, when it’s going on in here, Aspen’s never had this kind of vibe before — it really hasn’t,” said Director of Operations John Bukac. “And with the sound and the attention to detail in here, it kind of makes your skin tingle a little bit on those nights in here.”

When it was 7908, the restaurant and nightclub areas were more of

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