St. Paul punk and metal venue Station 4, which has been closed since June, is receiving a lot more than just a ventilation upgrade according to its ownership.
Last week, a post on the club's Facebook page suggested that it would be reopening as a "blues venue," and a "Save Station 4" page appeared, but there was very little context provided with the announcement. In a conversation with Alan Peterson, co-owner of the building that houses the rough-and-tumble venue, Gimme Noise has uncovered a much more ambitious plan for the space at East Fourth and Sibley Streets.
According to Peterson, who is the local partner in a group that has been in control of the building for the past 15 years, there will be at least two, and possibly three venues housed in the spot that could soon be formerly known as Station 4. Also, the attitude is definitely going to be different when business starts up again -- which now looks to be sometime in 2014.
New layout and capacity
According to Peterson, the building's corner storefront -- currently festooned with the Station 4 signage -- will become a bar and grill with music, and the far-right storefront is expected to be a beer bar that will also feature live music. The middle of the building will house a kitchen, bathrooms, and further infrastructure to be shared by both venues. Overall, the capacity for the building will stay the same, but will be shared between these two businesses. Each side will hold about 300-350 people, which makes for two spots that host more smaller shows than Station 4 did.
Depending on the success of these two spots, they're exploring the option of putting a speakeasy venue in the basement below the existing Station 4 space eventually.
"Think of a mid-range bar and grill," Peterson says. "We're not looking to be high-end, we're not looking to be really low-end." Each spot under this new plan will have its own venue stage, but all the interiors of those two spaces will be cleared out and upgraded. Expect a new facade, new heating and air conditioning, and "basically everything is going to be new." There won't be many artifacts remaining of Station 4 as you remember it. "Well, there's not much to save, I don't think," Peterson says. "There's not signature stuff in there. The space wasn't something hip, it wasn't an attractive space."
Peterson feels that his plan offers more benefits to more customers. These benefits include quality food that's affordable, a nice drink menu, and an extensive tap selection in the beer bar. "I want a good schedule of entertainment for customers," he says. "I want to be able to offer them video machines and whatnot. So I need to offer them more things than they'd been offered before, not just music. It's not gonna be a music venue, it's gonna be a music, food, entertainment. It's gonna be an entertainment venue -- of which music is a significant part."
Will there be punk and metal?
Peterson is diplomatic on this point. "There'll be more variety of music until we kind of figure out where the marketplace is," he says. "We're not gonna go totally away from [punk and metal], but yes, we are gonna go a little bit more mainstream. The St. Paul people have preferred that we do a little bit more mainstream, not so heavy on the metal. Our metal crowd has been great, by the way. But, you know, we have to try and be more neighborly."
Peterson says with the changing of the Lowertown neighborhood, there have been external pressures to tone things down. With Union Depot right across the street, the 2014 arrival of the LRT should further amp up the foot traffic in the neighborhood. On the one hand, the national metal acts created more noise concerns for Peterson, but on the other, they brought a lot of people to the neighborhood. "The answer is we're not quite sure how it's gonna go yet, and we're really trying to make all the different players as happy as we can -- within reason," he says. "I mean it's impossible to get everybody as happy, but we're gonna at least make some of the camps [happy]."
The club(s) will need a new overall manager. Peterson expects crossover from existing staff, including the sound and light people, and some of the booking. For the food venue, a totally different type of operator will be necessary. He says he's still interviewing right now and trying to narrow it down to get the right group of people.
When will it reopen and will it still be called Station 4?
Initially, a message on the Station 4 Facebook page said that things would be back up-and-running by after Labor Day, but Peterson's plan will take much longer. The conceptual drawings of the new spaces are still in the works. "In another month we'll be able to go over to the city and say, 'This is what we want, we need this, we don't want you to make too many changes, or hardly anything,'" he says.
The biggest challenge they're facing is that -- even if the crusty, hard-edged rock club doesn't suggest it -- the building is considered a historical landmark. Thus, all changes to the outdoor facade have to be approved by the Lowertown Heritage Preservation District commission. For example, Peterson wanted automatic sliding entry doors, but the design has to stay more traditional.
He says about a dozen different names are under consideration for the spaces, including keeping Station 4, using a variation of Station 4, or the Fourth Street Station. And the target date for reopening? "I was just a couple weeks ago thinking there's no reason we can't be up and running by January 1," he says. "But I don't know, March 1 now. It's just gonna take time."