The restrooms smelled like wet paint. A few nails and sawdust were sprinkled in one corner of the VIP level. The stage was topped by a temporary roof. And by closing time, nearly everyone was soaking wet.
But at the end of the night, none of that mattered. What the people of St. Petersburg will remember about Thursday night was this: Jannus Live was finally open for business.
After more than five months in the dark, the venue formerly known as Jannus Landing reopened with a concert by local artists Greg Billings Band, Tom Gribbin and the Saltwater Band and Gale Trippsmith and Tracy LaBarbera. Jacksonville's .38 Special and Molly Hatchet were set to play Friday night.
Based on the chatter Thursday, Jannus Live is going to be a hit.
One person said it felt like something out of a much bigger city. Another, a native New Yorker, said he'd never seen a venue like it. Another said she wanted to hate it, but after seeing it in person, she was in love.
It's hard to disagree. The Jannus courtyard is a unique concert setting, and new owners Jeff Knight and Bill Edwards have worked hard to make it reach its full potential. With nine bars around the courtyard, attendants in the brand-new indoor restrooms, burly bodyguards lining the VIP area and statuesque hostesses in miniskirts at the gate, Jannus Live looked as new as it ever will.
It's very clean, and with its brightly painted walls and blue and pink spotlights — not to mention the plastic-topped koi pond patio — it's definitely not the same old scuzzy Jannus Landing. It feels like something you might see in Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk.
The courtyard feels bigger and more open, with smoothed-out floors and a much higher canopy. Sight lines are improved from every corner, and there is very little wasted space. You can hang out in the back, near what used to be the Tamiami, and still have a great view of the stage, sipping a drink from the large permanent bar.
The VIP areas near the top were packed pretty tight all night, and they, too, had good views of the stage. When the rains came late in the evening, people could retreat inside the sleek private suites, which resembled those at any sporting arena, to watch basketball or hockey on flat-screen TVs.
To me, the element that might need the most work is the koi pond. The massive orange and white fish looked cool, if a bit listless, and you can't resist hovering above them. But the backlit plastic floor was largely fogged up, and it got extremely slippery when it rained. Keep that in mind when it sprinkles.
Will crowds get the full Jannus Live experience this weekend? No. That'll come in a month, when live concerts start up and the heart of Central Avenue's nightlife scene is beating once again.
Read more Tampa Bay concert news at blogs.tampabay.com/tbt.