Dialing It In

“I wanna be the new Bill Graham. I want to be the world-class independent promoter. I want to have a spot that is known for epic shows,” Dan Larson says with excitement as he sits at the remodeled bar of St. Augustine’s newest venue, The Standard. Since the opening of Cafe 11 ten years ago, St. Augustine has proven to North Florida that a small town can carry major weight in a regional music scene. Then along came the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, and the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, so the current bar (or standard) is pretty high. The question on St. Augustine’s mind is: how will this new venue live up to its name? Will it raise the standard, carry the standard, or will it just be standard.
Located at 200 Anastasia Boulevard on Anastasia Island, less than a mile south of the Bridge of Lions, The Standard is in the building formerly occupied by the short-lived booty club, The Two Hundred Lounge. Their intentions are not to follow in those footsteps but rather to appeal to a wide variety of concert-goers and music lovers.
“Really, to have a successful business in St. Augustine, you have to build a local base. That’s one thing I noticed with country music at the amphitheater. It’s huge. But there isn’t really a place to listen to country music and dance. To fill that niche we have country music every Thursday. For the tourists, we have dueling pianos. We have an indie dance night on Tuesdays. I don’t expect the tourists to find it. [It’s for] the Flagler students and the youth demographic.”
The Standard has a full bar, wrapping around the back corner of the large room across from the stage. “We want to get into the craft cocktail world, crafted with homemade ingredients,” Dan says, pointing out that they don’t have any of that yet. “Right now it is all about staying afloat.”
It seems most of this venues’ best days are still far ahead. They already have Red Jumpsuit Apparatus booked for December 2 and Fishbone in February. Otherwise, booking is in the early phases.
“I’ve got offers for a lot of different artists. On the short term, we are doing more local bar events…I’m a firm believer that if you have a tremendous experience in any regard then the money follows. That why we put so much into the production elements of the venue first,” he says.
“I want to be a curator of that live entertainment. You have to step out of your personal tastes. Mine skew to indie rock and a real rock focus. A little bit of dance music as well. But you have to be a steward of the venue. You have to present what your community and your potential audience wants to see. That takes a lot of research, getting a feel for the market and all that. Personally, I’m not a country fan, but I wanna bring country music, in a good way, to St. Augustine.”
The Standard officially opened in early November for a single event.
“We did a show November second with an indie buzz band called Hundred Waters, then we took a hiatus to dial in everything. We did have issues that you don’t know until you are actually open and have people in the building. We changed some things around in the bathroom, so you’re not waiting for the electronic thing to give you hand towels.”
Until they receive clearance on their fire suppression system, their capacity is limited, which limits their ability to stage large shows, but they hope to have it resolved early next year. In the meantime, what will it take to make this club successful?
“You know, I’m having an internal dialogue between really focusing on one niche versus being broad,” he says. The Standard will host events other than music, like comedy shows and weddings. The night Dan met me to conduct this interview, there was a Movember event taking place.
“One thing I’m really cognizant of is that it’s really hard to get hip. It’s really hard to be ‘the spot,’ so filtering out the bad and really focusing on the good is my booking philosophy. I learned that from Ryan Dettra, and I’m going to use what I learned from those awesome dudes and apply it here.”
He promises Amphitheatre-quality show production in a space that is small. And he and his partners have ostensibly made the appropriate investment in a sound system. “It’s brand new and made to work with [the venue]. I sat on the phone with sound engineers; I spoke with four different companies. I got a great deal on it, but I spent more money than buying just a sound system. It’s a trusted brand, it’s sonically dialed in.”
The Standard is a large room with a big bar and a stage. There is nothing about the space that guarantees success, no light-up dance floor or million-dollar lighting system, so its success lies entirely on Dan Larson’s shoulders. It will come down to the quality of the experiences he can provide to a diverse group of targets and how effectively he can communicate these experiences to the region. It will require a love for music and community, a salient vision and an intense focus to make such a tricky endeavor succeed.
He says, “At the end of the day, it’s business, so it’s gotta work for the bottom line; that’s what the focus is. But building a sustainable business off of the stuff we love is really my focus.”