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Goodbye, State Theatre. Hello, Floridian Social Club

Bill DeYoung



Closed since 2018, the State Theatre building has been at 687 Central Ave. since 1924. New owner Kevin Chadwick says renovations are nearly complete. Photo: Bill DeYoung

Contrary to previous reports, St. Pete’s State Theatre will not rise again.

Instead, the historic 1924 building on Central – refurbished, renovated, retro-fitted and re-dedicated – will be known as the Floridian Social Club. The Floridian, for short.

That’s the news Monday morning from Kevin Chadwick, the real estate broker who bought the State in 2018, shortly after the previous owner shut it down because of financial hardships.

When will the Floridian open? “The time isn’t as important as the result,” says Chadwick, who adds that interior renovations continue during the current crisis. “We’re still working, thank God, and when the rest of the world comes out of this, then we should be done.”

The 8,600-square-foot former bank, movie theater and – in its later years – concert hall will feature a “really cool, oval, Great Gatsby, turn-of-the-century lounge,” with smaller, intimate sitting rooms that can be reserved for groups. “You don’t get the feeling of this massive theater yet,” Chadwick says.

“As you walk through the lounge, the other half of it is in the theater. And walk into this cavernous theater with this huge stage state of the art sound and lights. It’s up now; I look at it and I think ‘Wow. There’s nothing like this.’”

Chadwick plans the 800-seat centerpiece auditorium as a mixed-use facility, with concerts, performing arts events and even meetings and large gatherings. The website was launched Monday morning.

“Our entire city is going through a renaissance,” Chadwick says. “It almost feels like it’s coming out of medieval times and really blossoming into something more modern, more fun. And this building is soon going to be 100 years old.

“I’m really excited about what we’re doing. We’re re-inventing the State Theatre as not just a theater or a concert hall. It’ll be an entertainment venue that is so broad, it’s only limited by everyone’s creativity.”

As for the genesis of the new name, Chadwick says he had an epiphany a few months back. “I’m a third-generation Chadwick here in St. Petersburg; my kids are fourth-generation,” he explains. “I always feel like we’re all connected to the theater as Floridians. We’re all Floridians, right?

“This theater is going to be here 100 years from now. I’m making sure of that. It’s fun when you can work on something that is a legacy worth leaving. It’s a little piece of our history that is going to be a big piece of all our future. I really think of it that way.”

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  1. Scott Bitterli

    Scott Bitterli

    April 6, 2020at10:51 am

    While understand that everything comes and goes, and the new owners have poured tons of money and everything it takes to rejuvenate a 100-year-old iconic venue, I just died a little inside.

    I, like so many others, have spent decades attending a ridiculous array of shows/concerts at ‘the State’ and have a reverence and nostalgia for my experiences there and its collective history in the character of downtown St. Pete. I’ve happily participated in and defended the modernization of downtown and the 600 Block for quite a while, unlike most of the OGs, so I’m not just another naysayer. I absolutely LOVE that this historic building is being brought back to life with so much care and exuberance, while other local landmarks are torn down and still neglected.

    Since it was bought and close, I have been anxiously awaiting it’s reopening and preparing to welcome it back as a much needed, reinvigorated venue for our music scene and nightlife. Now, I am worried. With this new name, branding, vision, I am worried for what may have been lost forever.

    The State Theater, for most of its life that I was a part of, was mostly dingy, banged up, often-stank, and underutilized, but was constantly welcoming to all forms of life and segments of our society and their music. From the huge national acts or local performers, grimy and violent punks, to the drug-fueled techno dancers, to ghetto booty nights, to the sad 80’s cover bands, to funk and soul, to metal, reggae, and everything in between; it offered a chance for everyone and anyone to feel like their niche scene had a home venue. This new branding tells me, ‘those people’ and ‘that music’ will need to find a new home.

    Changing the name of a local institution after 80 years is a huge risk and I hope it’s been carefully considered by knowledgeable people. The reputation of the State Theatre was overall very positive and could have easily been built upon and carried over as a persevering icon. But this change signifies to the everyone, that what was before, will not be again. And that is sad.

    In some circles, a “social club”, may have once been innocently known as a place where likeminded or culturally related people gather privately to relax, celebrate, do business, or whatever. But mostly, to most people, it means exclusivity, segregation, classism, privilege, wealth, and power. A place where the elite can go to be safe from the lower uncivilized masses. This is a bad look.

    I can see that the Chadwicks had a big dream, along with the guts, determination, skills and resources to pull it off. Because of all that, they have certainly earned the right to put their personal flavor or spin into this space. Unfortunately, this concept feels to be a step too far into a different world that is not welcoming to those local masses that generated so much momentum in that place over the decades.
    Exclusivity itself, may create some value to some people, but when it’s novelty wears off and there isn’t the rich diversity of free, fun, vibrant, creative spirits to attract new throngs and unique subsets of the public to regenerate the culture, it will be old and stuffy and stale before you know it. And it won’t be The State.

    I’m still optimistic and open-minded. This new venture still has time. It’s not open, or over, yet. I just hope the people behind this vision reconsider their mission and message and be open to riding the wave of momentum that has been generated by thousands of performers and generations of their fans. Don’t lose your customers before you even open the doors.

    CityZen – Loyal St. Petian & downtowner from the dark old days till today.

    • Avatar

      Jeanette Bulatowicz

      April 7, 2020at5:12 pm

      Yeah I kinda feel like the business owners I’ve gotten to know throughout the years on Central(I’ve been here since 1979, my husband was born at Mound Park Hospital), I’m out.

  2. Avatar

    Matt Kendall

    April 6, 2020at4:44 pm

    Well said Scott. I feel the same and there is no way I could have said it better. Cheers

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    Megan Basnett

    April 6, 2020at4:57 pm

    I feel that Scott pretty much summed up my thoughts. I’ve been very open and encouraging of change, this name change I just can’t understand. The history of the building was saved and removed at the same time. There’s already a Floridian in St Pete, so I’m also confused about the choice.

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    David Brinkmann

    April 6, 2020at11:53 pm

    Saying that the previous owner sold because of financial hardhsips is vague to the point of being innaccurate. The fire marshall changed the buildings capacity, and a concert venues ability to make money is directly tied to how many tickets it can sell. The city had more to do with it being sold than anything else.

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    Doreen Moulton

    April 16, 2020at1:16 pm

    I remember as a child seeing movies at the state theater & many many concerts. I agree that the name should remain the same or perhaps & social club but in our heart if hearts & memories it will always be the state theater & will probably still b called that by those that love it so much

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