The Dakota Jazz Club has entered into an agreement to lease the space formerly occupied by the Artists’ Quarter, a downtown St. Paul jazz institution that closed Dec. 31.
“We have respect for what [AQ owner] Kenny Horst did and what the Artists’ Quarter represented,” Dakota proprietor Lowell Pickett said Monday. “We can’t pretend to replace it.”
Pickett said he did not have an opening date or a name for the St. Paul club, which is in the basement of the Hamm Building, underneath Great Waters Brewery. He did say there will be live music every night the place is open — five to seven nights a week, he hopes — and light food and cocktails will be served.
He expects to make a formal announcement of his plans soon.
Even though Horst knows all aspects of the deal aren’t finalized, he’s happy to see music returning to his old haunt.
“I hope they’re able to go in there and be successful,” Horst said Monday. “It’s great that a music space is moving in there; it’s what I always wanted, actually.”
Pickett actually launched the Dakota in St. Paul, at Bandana Square in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood in 1985. He and his partners moved the club to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis in 2003. Originally focused on jazz, the 270-seat venue now offers an eclectic musical menu, including jazz, world music, R&B, rock and folk/pop singer-songwriters. It has presented such big names as Chick Corea, Leon Russell, Judy Collins and Prince.
The Artists’ Quarter, which started in Minneapolis before moving to St. Paul in 1995, was half the size of the Dakota. It was proud of its jazz-centric policy, booking such national names as Joey DeFrancesco and Ben Sidran, while providing a home base for local talents including Happy Apple and the Atlantis Quartet.
Pickett said he envisions a more eclectic musical menu at the new club, much like the Dakota.
Horst, 70, a jazz drummer, decided to pull the plug on the AQ last year because he was facing a steep rent increase and had become tired of running the club by himself. Even though he sold all the fixtures in the AQ, he never considered selling the name of his club. “I want to keep it,” he said. “Maybe my son will open an Artists’ Quarter someday.”
Prominent Twin Cities jazz bassist Chris Bates, who regularly performed at the AQ, is hopeful about the news.
“The Dakota used to have a good balance of local and national acts,” he said, “but they’ve clearly gone to more touring acts. I hope they try to include local bands like Kenny was trying to do. There’s an audience for it. I used to think that the AQ was for your St. Paul audience and the Dakota was for your Minneapolis and western suburbs audience.”