In one sense, the State Theatre has been the State Theatre for decades. Opened as a bank in the 1920s, it became a movie theater in the 1940s, then a popular concert venue.
In a different sense, it hasn’t been the State Theatre for two years, ever since a fire marshal’s crackdown led to the venue’s closing, sale and long-running refurbishment.
Now it’s not the State Theatre at all.
The venue on St. Petersburg’s 600 block of Central Avenue announced Monday it will soon go by a new name: the Floridian Social Club.
“I think it needed a fresh start,” said owner Kevin Chadwick. “I’m a firm believer that if you’re not growing and changing, you’re dying. That’s really where the theater was. It really hadn’t grown or changed, and it was dying, and I am, with all my might, breathing life into it.”
Chadwick, who grew up in St. Petersburg, settled on the new name — “the Floridian” for short — because natives and transplants alike view being Floridian as a “badge of honor.”
“It’s a tribute to everyone who lives here, and it gives honor to what we’re doing,” he said. “I could see the name ‘Floridian Social Club’ on it 100 years from now. My focus is not to do something superficial. It’s to do it at a level where, that thing better be here in 100 years.”
The Floridian will be open as a lounge from Tuesday to Thursday, and a performance venue on weekends, Chadwick said. Niall McCourt, formerly head of bartending at Mandarin Hide, will head up the beverage program.
There is no firm opening date yet, and the fact that the service and events industry has basically shut down won’t help that. Chadwick has set a rolling series of soft-opening target dates (“If it were up to me, it would have opened eight months ago"), but he said with confidence he believes it’ll be this year. Before the coronavirus shut everything down, the venue had just started looking to book events.
“It’s been closed for too long, quite frankly, but it’s taken this long,” he said. “It’s an arduous process to create something special.”
Even without an opening date, the Floridian has already gotten into the spirit of the local music scene. It’s actively promoting DTSP Live: Saved By Streaming, a live-streamed concert series helping local musicians while they’re out of work.
“The main point is to bring St. Pete together to support our local artists, musicians and hospitality team members,” said Floridian Social Club operating partner Brandon Huskins. “We have a responsibility to help where we can, even if our doors aren’t open yet.”
While artists have not yet been able to live-stream performances from the venue’s stage, Huskins said they want the city’s arts scene to feel like the Floridian Social Club is there with them.
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“It’s important to us that, as we aim to finish construction, that our neighbors and talent pool stay well,” he said. “We are part of St. Pete. We need to be creative in navigating through this.”