Concerts will return to Jannus Landing sometime in the spring.
At least that's the goal for Jeff Knight as he reinvents the shuttered outdoor concert venue in the block bounded by Central Avenue and First Avenue N, and Second and Third streets.
Knight is chief executive officer of Knight Enterprises, a large Clearwater-based cable installation provider partnered with Bright House Networks. He also owns the Middle Grounds Grill in Treasure Island.
Knight's partner, Bill Edwards, owns independent record label Big 3 Entertainment LLC in St. Petersburg. Edwards also is chairman and chief executive officer of Mortgage Investors Corp.
"Jannus Landing is the jewel of the city but it got a little banged up and needs a facelift," Knight says. "But it really won't change. It is still about music, tradition and affordability."
He envisions the entire block becoming an "entertainment complex" with services and events for all ages and all musical tastes.
Knight says he is also working closely with city officials to ensure both adequate parking and a safe environment for Jannus Landing visitors.
He says he has arranged for free parking for concertgoers in city parking garages and has been assured there will be a strong police presence in the area.
"Our new mayor (Bill Foster) is very pro-business and seems very committed to keeping the city's police department and businesses on the same page," Knight says. "We want to make it safe for couples, for people to come down here."
Key to the success of the new Jannus Landing is the courtyard, billed as "Florida's oldest and largest outdoor concert venue."
There haven't been any concerts at Jannus Landing since October after former operator Jack C. Bodziak ran into both financial and legal trouble, including charges that he had failed to pay more than $200,000 in sales taxes to the state.
Knight and Edwards stepped in to buy Bodziak's business and 10 percent interest in Jannus Landing, as well as contract with Jannus Landing owner Tony Amico to take over operations of the venue. The two partners also purchased a building on the northwest side of the courtyard.
Once renovations of the courtyard are completed, Knight says there will be more than a dozen concerts every month featuring a wide range of music groups from country to blues to rock 'n' roll.
Edwards is expected to draw heavily on his music contacts to book groups into the courtyard.
"He knows production, knows concerts. He will bring Jannus to a whole new level bringing in both new and up-and-coming acts as well as established talent who played here in the past. His passion for music is incredible," Knight says.
The courtyard also will be available for rent to charity groups, corporate get-togethers, weddings and birthday parties.
Right now, the courtyard is getting a complete makeover — new stucco and paint, leveled flooring and even a plexiglass-covered koi pond.
Renovations to a building at the northwest side of the courtyard will include eight luxury skyboxes with open-air balconies that will be available for rent to upscale-minded concertgoers.
To the casual observer, the stage area may look much the same, but the concerts will sound very different because of a new surround-sound system. Knight also is considering installing a retractable fabric canopy.
Other venues at the Landing are either already open or getting a major renovation.
The Tamiami Bar behind the courtyard stage will become Pure Saki, a combination bar, sushi restaurant, nightclub and dance club, featuring both house and celebrity DJs.
The Pelican Pub, which Knight envisions as a destination for preconcert and post-concert gatherings, opened this month.
Located next to the Jannus Landing courtyard entrance near the corner of First Avenue N and Second Street, the popular watering hole still greets visitors with its brick wall interior and eclectic bar.
But now the Pelican also has a new state-of-the-art, multimedia sound system and six flat-panel televisions for sports fanatics.
"Premium" drinks are still reasonably priced, Knight says.
For well-watered guests, there also will be updated restrooms to replace the infamous "Courtyard trough" where concertgoers often lined up to relieve themselves.
Detroit Liquors is scheduled to reopen after Christmas.
Plans for the Garden are still not complete, Knight said.
When concerts return to the courtyard in the spring, Knight says he expects to be the venue's biggest fan.
"I love music," he says. "I am enjoying this immensely."