First Avenue to buy and take over Turf Club

First Avenue to buy and take over Turf Club
Photo by Steve Cohen

First Avenue has announced plans to purchase and take over management of the Turf Club. The venerable St. Paul venue has long been one of the best Twin Cities venues of any size, and it's entering a new era after eight years under the ownership of Tom Scanlan. On October 15, the deal will officially go through.

According to a First Avenue release, the plan is to make improvements, but largely "keep the charm of the club." City Pages' "Best Country Music Venue" is adorned with a beautiful mural of the Cactus Blossoms on its side, but is also a smart destination for punk, garage rock, Mark Mallman Marathons, Lady Gaga, and a yearly Big Freedia party that blows the doors off the place.

See Also: Triple Rock manager Kermit Carter moving on, Turf's Ryan O'Rourke coming in

This development comes as an extension to First Ave's already existing relationship with the club. Many shows a month at Turf were already booked and promoted by the downtown Minneapolis club. Since the 1990s -- and especially under the leadership of Rob and Leah Rule -- the Turf became a hub for local and underground performers, and the downstairs Clown Lounge developed into a jazz-inflected organism of its own.

After opening in the 1940s as a dance club, the Turf has seen many different music crowds passing through Midway over the years. The sale of the venue is expected to be completed in a few months, and plans are to keep much of the current staff.

However, as Kermit Carter has announced he will no longer be managing at Triple Rock Social Club on the West Bank, Turf Club booker Ryan O'Rourke has confirmed he is taking over as head of booking over there. According to First Ave's Nate Kranz, this move will mean that they will absorb O'Rourke's responsibilities at Turf. "If we need more people, we'll have to go out and find somebody," he says.

As the LRT nears its completion along University Avenue, it will gain an added level of accessibility to the 300-capacity venue.

Here is the release from First Avenue:

- First Avenue is excited to announce we have entered into a purchase agreement with the Turf Club and will take over as acting managers of the St. Paul, MN venue on October 15, 2013.

As a venue with our own rich and distinct history, we recognize the importance of embracing and maintaining what makes the Turf Club a gem of the Twin Cities. While we plan to keep the charm of the club, we will also be investing significantly in improvements to the venue. And don't worry; we love the Clown Lounge as much as you do - it's not going anywhere.

"I'm really excited to see the next era of the Turf Club with the team coming in from First Avenue. While I am looking forward to some new investment, I'm confident it will carry on the tradition of the Saint Paul Music Club started by Rob and Leah Rule that made it such a treasure" said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

"After eight years of owning and operating this club I wouldn't just hand it off to any buyers. I've worked closely with First Ave over the years and have seen firsthand what they're capable of," said current Turf Club owner, Tom Scanlon. "I haven't flinched in entrusting the club to First Avenue and I'm excited to see its continued success. "

Building on our 13 years of successful booking and promoting of shows at the Turf Club, we're excited to continue to bring emerging national bands and favorite local acts to St. Paul. "Whether promoting or enjoying a show, I have spent countless nights at the Turf Club and could not be more excited about this new venture," said Nate Kranz, General Manager of First Avenue.

First Avenue to buy and take over Turf Club

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