Turf Club reopens in St. Paul

The St. Paul bar, restaurant, and music venue was closed in May 2020 following an arson that caused water damage.

ST PAUL, Minn. — An iconic music venue reopened this week in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, signaling another long-awaited return of in-person, live music.

Ashley Ryan is the Vice President of Marketing for First Avenue, which owns Turf Club.

“It feels incredible to be sitting in the Turf Club right now,” Ryan said. 

It’s come a long way from May 2020, when Ryan said arson caused the sprinkler system in the music venue to go off all night.  It caused flooding and forced major construction.

“If you walked in the door right now you probably wouldn’t know anything had happened,” Ryan said.  “We were true to the space and how it had existed prior,” she said.

Ryan said you might notice just a bit more sparkle beneath your feet when you walk in.  The rest of the new floors – which make for better sound – are a little shinier and the bar is a bit more polished. Ryan said show posters are hung almost in their exact places along the side wall.

There is one new addition though: A clown in a frame is a nod to the history of the place discovered during construction. Ryan said they recently found out the clown’s red nose acts as a crank to produce a melody. It has found a home behind the bar. She said the clowns stuck around, especially downstairs in the Clown Lounge.

Dessa will be performing at Turf Club Thursday and Friday. Ryan said their booking team has been working through the pandemic, but the challenge was knowing when they’d reopen. Ryan said most shows right now are local bands with a couple of tours. But she said fall is when those tours will come through.

“I’m really excited that we have like a summer calendar full of local shows,” Ryan said.

There were serious concerns from venues around the country that opening day wouldn’t come for many. Federal funding, for the most part, dried out after the beginning of the pandemic, then there was the Save the Stages Act that became the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

“That money is being allocated and distributed now, but that grant passed in December and we are in July and there are still thousands of businesses who’ve applied for it who haven’t received it,” Ryan said. “It’s tough, people who are trying to open their doors right now, they actually are waiting for these grants to come through so that they can put down deposits on bands or pay their staff to really even be able to open,” she said. Ryan said they are also hoping state funding could help because she said there has not been a targeted relief for their industry.

There are a few things to know before you go to any local venues.  A general rule is to be patient with lines, either getting in or even if you’re grabbing a beer. The venues are also getting used to opening up. 

There could be ticketing system changes to allow for touchless admission. First Avenue is using a mobile ticketing platform now. 

Some venues are also asking for concert goers to respect other people’s personal space. Some say on their website that you should wear a mask if you want to or you if are not vaccinated, but it is not required. You can also support artist by buying merch.  And remember to tip your bartenders.

“We’re all trying to get used to what this feels like together and we all want to have a good time,” Ryan said. 

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