St. Paul's most beloved rock venue, the Turf Club, abruptly shut its doors over the weekend but will ride again soon under new management. All of its shows for at least the next week have been called off.
Longtime ringleader Dave Wiegardt is out, and bartender Joshua James is in as manager of the historic Midway area bar. Both said they expect the club to maintain an eclectic mix of underground music and its funky dive-bar vibe, but with a few structural improvements and more weekly promotions and specials.
Patrons and musicians found out about the changing of the guard only hours before a scheduled show Saturday by local all-star band Marijuana Deathsquads. The gig was canceled, and those who didn't get the news via Twitter and Facebook arrived to find a "closed for repair" sign on the door.
James has set a target reopening date of Jan. 11 and hopes to reschedule the bands left out in the cold. Hip-hop duo MC/VL has moved its farewell show -- scheduled next Saturday at the Turf -- to the 501 Club in downtown Minneapolis, which is not so coincidentally going out of business after this week.
James, who was previously a manager at the Eagle Street Grille in downtown St. Paul, said he will need that much time to get "all the behind-the-scenes business" in order, along with plumbing work and other repairs planned during the lull. He has decided to keep Ryan O'Rourke as the club's primary talent booker but plans to close the bar on Sundays and Mondays, meaning an end to its "Old Stage" acoustic nights.
"The plan is to improve on the two things that the Turf Club does well, which is being a great rock club and being a great neighborhood bar," James said.
"Quite possibly, it's going to come out of this a better bar," said Wiegardt, who helmed the creation of the Turf's popular downstairs bar, the Clown Lounge, in the mid-'90s and steered it through an ownership change five years ago.
Wiegardt said he did not fault owner Tom Scanlon for letting him go, citing the well-known financial challenges of running a bar built around original live music -- evidenced by the 501 Club's pending closure.
"Honestly, I'm looking forward to simply hanging out at the club and not stressing over how many heads are coming through the door," Wiegardt said.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658