If you're building a music club from the ground up, you ought to get it right — especially if you're Live Nation, the world's biggest concert promoter, which presented 35,000 shows in 40 countries in 2018.
Last week, Live Nation opened the spiffy Fillmore Minneapolis, the ninth in a chain of clubs under the Fillmore banner. And they got it right. Most of it, anyway.
Let us detail the ways.
Location. Shoehorned into a small footprint next to the Target Field light-rail station, the Fillmore is in a cool intersection of the hip North Loop and the mass-appeal Twins ballpark. The club's door is just a few dozen steps from the light-rail station. Perfect, except when it's brrrr-low zero.
Sound. Definitely one of the best things about the Fillmore, the sound system is terrific: clear, crisp, balanced. Enhancing the acoustics are details like the wooden dance floor (great for standing or dancing) and burgundy curtains covering the walls (the color associated with the original Fillmore in San Francisco).
Sightlines. The view of the stage is pretty good for about 80% of the clubgoers, namely those on the general-admission dance floor and those seated in the pricey balcony VIP boxes. However, views are challenging if not obstructed (by bodies or pillars) for general-admission customers standing on the sides of the balcony (behind the seats) and on the sides of the main floor. (I wish the floor had been slightly inclined from back to front like the Myth nightclub in Maplewood; that helps shorter folks see over those in front of them.)
Restrooms. They are bright, clean and private. Here are the counts: women have 12 stalls on the main floor and nine upstairs; men have six urinals and three stalls on the first level, four urinals and two toilets upstairs. That could be challenging on a dude-heavy metal night.
BG's Lounge. This modest VIP spot on the second level boasts a bar, plush chairs, three private booths and live video of the concert stage with excellent sound. You can retreat from the crowd and still appreciate the concert.
The staff. It's abundant. The staff-to-guest ratio is probably better than the provider-to-child ratio at your favorite day-care center.
Accessibility. As a new venue, the Fillmore is compliant with ADA regulations with accessible restrooms, an elevator and a designated seating area in the balcony with excellent sightlines.
The little things. The Fillmore sets up stanchions (like your bank does) at the merchandise table, making things so much more orderly than at most concerts. On a below-zero Brandi Carlile night last week, staffers distributed free hot chocolate to patrons in line outside.
After each show, the Fillmore offers free apples, a tradition started by promoter Bill Graham, father of the Fillmore (and namesake of BG's Lounge). It was never clear why — to feed the starving (or stoned) hippies who hung out there?
Oh, by the way, the hand-cut French fries — with a choice of three different seasonings prepared in the Fillmore's Trax restaurant — served in the VIP area are scrumptiously first-rate.
The Fillmore Minneapolis, like U.S. Bank Stadium, could have used a vice president of common sense in the planning process.
Perhaps some of the new club's shortcomings can be remedied:
Coat check. The lobby cloak room can accommodate 550 coats, but the club holds 1,850 people. Hello? It's Minnesota. Richfield's Tushie Montgomery Architects should have known better, and Live Nation should have demanded more.
Video. The new club has modest-sized live video screens throughout to accommodate fans who don't have a clear view of the stage. However, the video quality is inferior: The lead singer's face is invariably washed out by a bright spotlight. Inadequate equipment or operator error? In any case, it's unacceptable.
VIP seating. The reserved seats at high-top tables for two in the balcony come at a premium price. So why does one movable chair face the stage, the other the back of the room?
Standing on the stairwell. This is a desirable vantage point at the back of the main floor because you're slightly elevated. But blocking a stairwell is a fire hazard.
Staff training. If a couple orders an item from the "shared bites" category on the VIP menu, why does the server bring just one set of plastic silverware? Ever tried to split a napkin in half?