The countdown was on last week as Stuart Manchee and a crew of friends and tradesmen worked furiously to complete renovations for the Nov. 20 grand reopening of The Station Music Hall.
“I wanted to rebrand to make it my own,” said Manchee, 30.
In June, he bought the former Rustic, also known for years as The Campbell Street Station and later The Mule.
The entire 15,000-square-foot nightclub, aside from the kitchen, has been remodelled and upgraded, he said.
Workers hammered, painted and tended to the final details as the renovation was completed in two weeks to accommodate the bar’s busy fall season.
A sold-out charity event called Sassy for Sammy was scheduled for last Friday night, allowing no flexibility in the reno schedule.
Manchee’s new name for the business pays tribute to the club’s roots but also emphasizes his commitment to bring bands to his main stage regularly.
Twenty bands have headlined since June. Bigger names like The Arkells, Lights, Scott Weiland and Eric Ethridge sold out the 500-plus capacity venue.
“My vision is to bring world-class entertainment to Sarnia, so you don’t have to travel to larger cities for your entertainment,” he said. “It’s going to be all genres; hard rock, rap, country, pop and rock.”
A couple of comedy nights have gone over well and Manchee intends to have more.
The refurbished bar is also continuing its tradition of being Sarnia’s biggest dance club every weekend, with the last Saturday of each month reserved for local bands. That starts this weekend when Sarnia’s Rockridje starting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28.
“I want a place that is not pretentious but is comfortable, with great service, the best music and a lot of fun,” said Manchee.
The new club features a VIP booth to the left of the stage. The roped-off area offers an excellent view of the show and a private server.
The wall that divided Rustic into two rooms is gone and the new Station Music Hall features two long bars on each side of the stage. Décor is trendy industrial with concrete counters, a leather tile wall and brick accents.
“The band room is the first thing I did,” said Manchee. “It’s all about being a good host to these bands and, so far, every band has said our hospitality and our band relations are second to none.”
He’s no stranger to the music scene, having spent a lot of time at The Kee to Bala, a legendary bar in Muskoka that has brought in big names for 70 years.
“That’s where I had my first taste of working with bands,” said Manchee. “I’m trying to model this after that.”
His connection with prominent booking agents is helping land bigger names to play The Station Music Hall.
“I’m looking at one to two headliners a month,” he said.
Next up is Matthew Good on Nov. 30 and the Best Funkin’ Christmas Party on Dec. 4 with KC Roberts and the Live Revolution from Toronto and the Third Coast Kings from Detroit.
Manchee grew up in Aurora and married a Sarnia gal who convinced him to move to her hometown. He and his wife, Catherine, are raising their two sons and operating the club together with Catherine’s sister Theresa Blouin.
The Station Music Hall is located at 505 Campbell St. Check the website www.thestationmusichall.com for details.
Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.