The term "soft opening" hardly seems like an accurate way to describe last night's bustling first night of business for St. Paul's newest venue, Amsterdam Bar & Hall. Even the mayor of St. Paul, Chris Coleman, showed up to celebrate his 50th birthday in the new space, along with plenty of familiar faces from the music community who were there to show their support for the promising concert hall.
[jump] The "Hall" part of the Amsterdam Bar & Hall was on full display last night, as the owners opted to keep the removable dividing wall tucked away to show off the full scale of the room despite the fact that the bands were playing on the smaller side stage. On nights where the side stage is being used, the venue will be closed off to limit the space to what looks like a capacity of about 250-300 patrons, and with the wall open it looks like the hall could comfortably fit 500-600, especially if the freestanding tables in front of the large main stage were removed.
One of the most popular aspects of the bar last night was the outdoor patio, which was almost too small to accommodate all of the patrons spilling out of the space last night, and it gave that stretch of downtown a sense of commotion that is rarely felt in that area of St. Paul, save for when Wild fans are filing between the Xcel Energy Center and neighboring pubs. Amsterdam seems just far enough away from the Xcel that it won't be an obvious choice for pre-game cocktails, but that's probably a good thing -- it will help set the venue apart as a destination for music fans. And with the first three hours of parking in the adjacent ramp validated by the bar, it makes driving to a show a breeze.
Between sets last night, Amsterdam booker and Eclipse Records co-manager Martin Devaney brought me next door to show off the new racks of vinyl in the neighboring room (for those familiar with the old Pop! space, Eclipse is setting up shop in what was once the restaurant's banquet room). Devaney was especially enthused about a plan to install a door between the record store and the venue, which will allow concertgoers to file into the shop to poke around during shows. And with Big Table Studio right next door making flyers for gigs at Amsterdam, it seems like this trio of businesses has the full concert and music appreciation experience on lockdown.
For more on last night's opening festivities, check out these shots by Erik Hess: