In the 1990s, the Turf Club grew from a St. Paul neighborhood bar into a happening metro-area club by bringing in top local artists and up-and-coming touring bands. But in 2005, Dubliner Pub owner Tom Scanlon bought the club, prompting its booking agents to resign. Over time, programming lulled, and when First Avenue bought it last October, the Turf was open just four nights a week.
“We’ve been looking to add another space for quite a while,” says First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz. Having booked occasional shows at the Turf for First Ave. since 1999, its crew knew its complexities. After coughing up $190,000 for the club, First Ave. immediately filled in the Turf’s calendar to open six nights a week. With First Ave.’s email list of 100,000 people and a hefty social media presence already in place, selling tickets to those additional shows has been easy, says Kranz.
One of the first things they did was install a new point-of-sale system to start tracking sales. “I can break down numbers day-to-day and month-to-month [at First Avenue],” says Kranz. “That’s just not the way [Turf] operated before.”
The books weren’t the only thing in disrepair. The building needed substantial renovations, including replacing the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and roof. Improvements started last year, but will require the club to close from June to mid-August. “What’s funny about all this is that when we’re all done,” says Kranz, “it’s largely going to look exactly the same.”
Adding a sprinkler system will boost capacity from 180 to 300 for standing-room-only shows, increasing revenue potential. They’ve also started experimenting with comedy shows—successfully, so far.
Having added a kitchen, the Turf will be open for lunch daily and offer brunch on weekends, creating a venue akin to what the Uptown Bar once was.
First Avenue isn’t done either: “I’m sure once we get the Turf up and running,” says Kranz, “we’ll start looking for another place.”
Employees pre-reopening: 13
Employees post-reopening: 40
Shows a year: 250-300
Price paid: $190,000
Names on First Avenue’s email list: 100,000
Number of clubs First Avenue owns and operates (Mainroom, 7th Street Entry, Turf Club): 3