By photojournalist Jeffrey Moellering
The old “State Theatre” in downtown St. Petersburg originally began life nearly 100 years ago in 1924 as the Alexander National Bank and had been re-designed for movies after World War II. It was listed on the St. Petersburg Register of Historic Places in 1991.
The facility was re-purposed in the 1980s as a live music venue and hosted many legendary shows of classic acts before ultimately falling into disrepair and closing due to code violations. Tampa Bay native Kevin Chadwick, the Owner and Operating Principal of real estate developer Keller Williams, thought it was of vital importance to not only save the historic venue, but to bring it back to glory as worthy of the burgeoning downtown St. Petersburg scene. Chadwick purchased the property for $2.1 million in 2018 with a vision of creating a space capable of ushering in a new era, that would be a signature destination for years to come.
Kevin soon realized that if he was going to do it right, it would take time, money and loving care to turn it into a space worthy of his ideal. They ultimately gutted the old theater and spared no expense in re-imagining a truly state of the art facility. The Covid pandemic further delayed opening, but Friday, February 7th, brought Tampa Bay funk legends The Black Honkeys, performing in a fitting opening party for what’s now been christened as the Floridian Social Club.
The Honkeys were the perfect act to kick things off; only fitting that the first big party should be such an iconic Tampa Bay band. They did not disappoint, after being pent up for several months during the Covid closures, bringing out their signature blend of class and just enough raunch to make it a real celebration.
The new venue boasts a beautifully re-imagined entryway and seated foyer wings for mingling, an elegant front bar that extends into the concert area, an upstairs bar with theater seats providing a perfect view of the stage, a classy tiled dance floor area up front, and seated, socially distanced tables on the floor level. Chadwick says that the new Floridian will be first about the music, and he plans to focus both on home grown talent and bringing national talent to the area. The venue is a decidedly great mix of sophistication and accessibility that will be a marquee destination for touring acts who will undoubtedly be eager to book shows there.
The Black Honkeys put on their typical high energy show, including a blend of signature R&B classics and originals. Because of Covid restrictions, capacity was kept to a maximum of 300 people, which allowed everyone the comfort and safety to soak in the new facility while feeling loose enough to shake it up on the dance floor. The new sound system is clear and punchy, without being overwhelming, and the acoustics of the nearly century old room were remarkably crisp, resounding off the spacious walls.