Minneapolis’ best-known rock club, First Avenue, just added another familiar name to its growing roster of music venues: the Fine Line Music Cafe.
First Avenue’s operators announced Tuesday they are buying the other well-worn rock club in downtown Minneapolis. Situated four blocks away from First Avenue in the Warehouse District, the Fine Line will officially change hands Oct. 1, but not a whole lot else will be different immediately.
Opened in 1987 when the Warehouse District was just taking flight, the Fine Line became a live music hub but dwindled in stature over the past decade. First Avenue staff members were brought in to help book concerts in recent years, and in many ways the bigger club has helped keep the lights on in the smaller room.
Size-wise, the Fine Line marks a missing piece in First Avenue’s puzzle of venues. Its 800-person capacity falls squarely between St. Paul’s 350-capacity Turf Club, which First Avenue bought in 2013, and the First Avenue main room, which holds about 1,500 people.
“We’re incredibly excited to add the Fine Line to the First Avenue family, and really — more importantly — to keep this local venue independently owned and operated,” First Avenue owner Dayna Frank said in a statement.
Having the Fine Line in its mix of venues pits First Avenue directly against the Varsity Theater, run by national competitor Live Nation.
A hint that the new ownership deal has been in the works for a while, First Avenue has already lined up an impressive roster of shows at the Fine Line following the October changeover, including Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Django Django, Belly, Jade Bird, the Vaccines, Jain and KT Tunstall.
The Fine Line’s longtime owner, Dario Anselmo, sold the venue’s name and assets in 2013 but retained ownership of its historic building, at 318 1st Av. S., as he made an unsuccessful run for the state Legislature. (He was later elected in 2016.) In the interim, the club was run by Elite Hospitality, an events company that also recently sold the neighboring Aqua dance club.
Hardly any improvements or alterations have been made to the Fine Line over the past decade-plus, and it has fallen out of favor with many live music lovers. First Avenue’s operators hinted at sprucing the place up but did not mention any specific changes other than bringing some of its own staff in to help manage the space.
“We will be evaluating all of the operations over the next few weeks,” First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz said. “All of the security, production and box office staff will be familiar faces from the other First Avenue-associated venues.”
The Fine Line will be the fifth establishment to fall under the First Avenue banner, counting its longtime small companion the 7th St. Entry, the Turf Club, the First Ave main room, the Depot Tavern and the 2,800-capacity Palace Theatre in St. Paul.