After surviving the economic doldrums of recent years and renovating its historic building at 500 Magnolia Ave. in Larkspur, the board members of the American Legion Post 313 are hoping to spur an arts revival at the space, with a number of local arts groups eyeing it and one prominent music promoter set to host recurring live shows there.
The rebirth comes five years after the Post’s last – and most prominent – long-term tenant was given the boot. Thom and Becky Steere, the owners of the original Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley, opened the Sweetwater Station as a music venue in the Post building in July 2007 after the couple was forced to close the original Sweetwater three months earlier.
On the heels of that separation, American Legion Post 313 member Bob Gonzalez said the organization decided to go in a different direction with the 1,500-square-foot space, eschewing taking on a long-term tenant so as to allow Post members more regular access to it. Since then, the Post mostly hosted one-off events, from birthday parties and bar mitvahs to community events.
Now the Post is switching gears to a hybrid of those two strategies, hoping to line up a number of producers to host recurring events there, striking a balance with the flexibility that comes with not having a long-term tenant and the stability of not having to start from scratch with every new, one-time renter, Gonzalez said.
The biggest addition is Murphy Productions, the live music company founded by Mill Valley residents Daniel and Erma Murphy that put on concerts at the Post’s “Larkspur Café Theatre” until right before the Sweetwater Saloon moved in there. The couple is calling the Post venue the Music Box for their shows there, starting with a Flashback 60s Dance Party featuring cover band Revolver, with attendees encouraged to wears 60s garb.
“The room will be our Music Box – we will open it up and the music will come pouring out,” Erma Murphy said.
Gonzalez said other recurring tenants are also in the mix, including Academy DeTurk, a performing arts school run by Kristine and Scott DeTurk, who teach drama to junior high-aged students throughout the summer at the Post space.
“We’re getting more and more rentals all the time – it’s a great things for us and we hope it’s a great thing for the community,” Gonzalez said.
The building, which has become much more visible in recent months after a grove of boxwood trees that surrounded it were removed, was built in the early 1940s, while the part of the building that houses the bar dates back even further to when it served as the train station master’s tiny one-bedroom house, according to Gonzalez. New landscaping by the Marin Master Gardeners has greatly helped the exterior look of the building, he said.
The biggest change to the space that has allowed for more types of uses was the removal of the large stage that took up more than 25 percent of the total floor space, Gonzalez said. Now, the space can hold 200 people in theater-style seating and 100 at tables, he said.
The 411: Murphy Productions’ Flashback 60’s Dance Party featuring Revolver is Oct, 26 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Click here for more information and to get tickets.