Inside Jannus Live: Photos and a tour of the reinvented venue

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March

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The circus tent is gone. So is the pole in front of the stage. So are the sketchy, ramshackle restrooms.

If you loved those elements of the old Jannus Landing, then you might be suspicious of the high-gloss concert venue that’s taking its place, the rechristened, refurbished, re-everythinged Jannus Live.

But the venue, while still a work in progress, has much more going for it than the quirky design and free-flowing design that made Jannus Landing one of the region’s most beloved venues.

New owners Jeff Knight, above, and Bill Edwards have pumped more than $1 million into the Jannus courtyard and its surrounding brick buildings, making use of previously wasted space to create a live music experience that they say will be vastly superior to the old Jannus Landing.

“This was a diamond in the rough for the city,” Knight said. “Now it’s going to be what it should be. We built this place to last another 30 years.” 

On Monday, as work crews rushed to finish Jannus Live in time for this weekend’s initial concerts by .38 Special and Gretchen Wilson, Knight took tbt* on a tour of the venue. Here's what you’ll see.

The stage: The first thing you notice when you enter Jannus Live — aside from the fully functional fountain out front — is the permanent roof above the stage.

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At four stories and 5,000 square feet, it dwarfs the old Jannus Landing “circus tent” canopy. It’ll be covered with a waterproof, UV-protected fabric, offering the crowd greater shelter from the elements. And it’s tall enough that it won’t block the view of the stage from the balcony lining the courtyard. The 1,000-square-foot stage will stand six feet off the ground, and depending on the artist, there may be a security barricade between the stage and the crowd, just as before. For this weekend, they’re using a temporary sound and lighting rig, but by the time shows kick up again in April, they should have a permanent rig installed, complete with a half-dozen permanent high-def cameras to record each concert.

The koi pond: If you’re looking for Jannus Live’s signature element, this may be it:

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In place of the wooden deck near the back of the courtyard, is a VIP patio with see-through floors atop a pond containing at least a half-dozen live 30-pound koi. (Hey, if Tropicana Field can have cownose rays, why not?) A koi supplier in Largo will maintain the pond and fish. “Koi fish are pretty durable,” Knight said.

The VIP suites: Nothing says rock 'n’ roll like a posh VIP suite, right? The punks in the pit might object, but if you’ve got the cash, there’s no better vantage point than the eight VIP suites around the balcony. They contain couches, a minibar, shared restooms and flat-screen TVs, on which each concert will play in high definition. Prices will vary by show — for Friday’s .38 Special show, for example, suite tickets were $80 apiece, with a 10-ticket minimum purchase. It’s ideal for bachelor parties, corporate events or people who opt for bottle service in nightclubs.

The bars: In addition to a large permanent full bar near the back, there will be up to eight portable bars positioned around the courtyard, an upstairs VIP lounge that’ll stay open until 2 a.m., and minibars and a full-time lounge attendant in the VIP suites. Many aspects of the venue will be sponsored by a liquor company — the Captain Morgan Koi Pond, the Jagermeister Bar, the Three Olives Stage, etc. — with all premium spirits. But Knight says he’s committed to keeping drink prices at a manageable level — say, $5.50 for a Crown and Coke. (And if you’re hungry, don’t worry — Joey Brooklyn’s will still sell pizza in the courtyard.)

The restrooms: “This was totally at the top of the list,” Knight said. “Indoor plumbing.” Yes, Jannus Live will have spacious indoor, air-conditioned bathrooms, with 27 stalls in the ladies’ room, below, and 10 urinals and 5 stalls for men.

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Tickets: Capacity hasn’t been set for Jannus Live just yet, but Knight expects it’ll be at least 1,800 and possibly over 2,000 — which would be several hundred more than the old Jannus Landing. A ticket office will open in the old Ticketmaster office around the corner, on First Avenue N. For now, shows will have at least three price points — a general admission ticket; a VIP ticket offering access to the koi pond, balconies and upstairs lounge; and the VIP suites. Knight says he’ll work with local promoters and bookers — including longtime Jannus Landing promoter Rob Douglas — to bring in shows by artists of all genres. He also expects to bring in out-of-town DJs on a weekly basis to spin at Pure Sake, the sushi club/restaurant that’s being built adjacent to Jannus.

Behind the scenes: Two green rooms for artists have been completely renovated, including one just off the upstairs VIP lounge (Knight hopes the artists might come out and mingle from time to time). Above the VIP suites is an entire floor containing 8-12 refurbished offices, about 3,000 square feet in all, that Knight plans to rent to local businesses. Some of the offices have a clear view of the stage; Knight says he’ll even give tenants concert tickets to every show.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photos: Cherie Diez, tbt*.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:18pm]

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