Back to the Future

The Metro could be a new hope for concert-goers and the local music scene

Natalie Rosenkranz, photos by Andrea Paulseth

SPACE EXPLORATION. A new event venue in an old spot (210 E. Lake St.) – owner Benny Haas will revive one of the building’s previous names: The Metro.
SPACE EXPLORATION. A new event venue in an old spot (210 E. Lake St.) – owner Benny Haas will revive one of the building’s previous names: The Metro.

Before it was The Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley, the building at 210 E. Lake St. was well known for bringing in a variety of talented musicians. Benny Haas, the new owner of this spot, intends to honor this musical history by reviving one of its previous names: The Metro.

Haas – who is also the owner of The Plus (208 S. Barstow St.), The Venue (i.e., the old Bottle & Barrel), and a soon-to-be-opened wine bar called The Rev (previously an art store and bakery known as benny HaHa) – originally planned to turn the old Boys & Girls Club into a grocery store as well as a café and a music hall. However, he eventually decided to focus his efforts on the latter part of this plan: a music hall and event center.

“I think this is one of those niche things that’s been missing: a large enough venue with a 500- to 700-person capacity with standing room that gives you that true concert feel.” – Benny Haas, on his new music and event venue, The Metro

According to Haas, “In the 1950s, it was an A&P Grocery Store.” From there, he adds, Steve Chen – who once worked at Cray Research Inc. (Silicon Graphics) – opened a fine-dining Mandarin Chinese restaurant known as The Mandarin Club.

In addition to The Mandarin Club, the location was known for a while as The Malibu Club and at another time as The Metro. Haas recalls, “Before The Malibu Club, it was The Metro … that would’ve been circa late ’90s and early 2000s. The Metro was a music venue and bar. I’d actually gone to see a few concerts there, like The Big Wu.”

He continues: “At the time, it was the only real music scene besides The Stones Throw; The House of Rock wasn’t even around yet. There were smaller bars for smaller bands, but nothing like the square footage of this space.”

The House of Rock (422 Water St.), which offered about the same capacity as The Plus, was a long-running music venue that closed in July, leaving a significant gap in the local music scene. With that in mind, the decision to open The Metro as an events center holds a lot of value and potential, and could be a new hope for the local musicians, comedians, and performers.

“Clear Water Comedy is excited; they’re bending over backwards for it,” Haas says. “Even with our current booking (at The Plus), we’ll get leads on bands that we don’t have the capacity for. If we can get to the 500-700 capacity at The Metro, that will put us in line with (Minneapolis music club) First Avenue’s capacity. We want to reach that 1,000-person capacity so we can get those comedians and entertainers. We put a lot of money into remodeling the infrastructure and the space.”

Some other types of events that Haas plans to host at The Metro include fundraisers, corporate events, concerts, and weddings: In fact, Haas married his wife Kate there on June 10. The venue was decked out Gatsby-style and practically overflowing with friends and family members of the happy couple – it was the perfect setup for a wedding. “Like The Plus, it’s not any one thing,” Haas says.

The first event at The Metro – “Stage Fright 8: A Tribute to The Last Waltz” – will take place on Nov. 22. It is a tribute to The Band as well as a fundraiser to benefit The Community Table and will consist of a 5:30pm dinner show as well as a 9:30pm late show.

“All of the musicians dress up like famous musicians,” Haas explains. “It’s based off a documentary by Martin Scorsese, which is about The Band.” Local performers at the event will include Rhythm Posse, Sue Orfield, and Chasing Mabel, to name a few.

While the first event will include a dinner show, Haas explains that The Metro will have a relatively simple menu. “We’ll only be open when we have events there. It’s a basic menu – the thing you’re accustomed to at larger venues. So, we’ll have beer and wine,” he says.

In addition to “Stage Fright,” Haas says he’s working on a New Year’s Eve show. “I think this is one of those niche things that’s been missing: a large enough venue with a 500- to 700-person capacity with standing room that gives you that true concert feel,” Haas shares. He adds that the most important thing people should know is the ambiance and history of the space. “We’ve kept a lot to its roots,” he says.

Tickets for “Stage Fright 8: A Tribute to the Last Waltz” are available at volumeonetickets.org.

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