Earlier this year, Jodi Goodman, president at Live Nation Northern California had heard a rumor that two San Francisco natives — music industry veteran Scott Murphy and local restaurateur Nate Valentine, along with two other partners, had “emptied their piggy banks” to sign a long-term lease and develop a 1,000-cap music venue near the city’s historic Union Square.
“Some friends of mine told me I really should talk to Nathan and Scott and see the venue,” which had been operated as the Ruby Skye nightclub for years, serving electronic acts. Goodman ran into the guys a short time later and was given a tour of the historic space at 420 Mason Street that once served as the headquarters for California’s largest conservation society.
“The room was beaten, tired and almost destroyed after 15 years, but the bones of the building were spectacular,” Goodman said. “I felt like how Bill Graham probably felt when he first went into the Fillmore back in the day,” she said of the famed promoter who harnessed the city’s Summer of Love in 1967 and counterculture in a booming live music business.
“With August Hall, you can see the potential for San Francisco and from that moment on, I was obsessed,” Goodman said.
When it opens early next year, August Hall and the accompanying Fifth Arrow restaurant and bar will be San Francisco’s most centrally located music destination, walkable to a number of new boutique hotels, hot restaurants and the famed Powell/Mason Cable Car line. Valentine is the force behind San Francisco hot spots including Mamacita and The Tipsy Pig while Murphy is a veteran of management firm Deckstar and was an early employee at Eventbrite, today one of the world’s largest ticketing companies. They’re joined in the venture by Chad Donnelly from Lake Tahoe’s Snowglobe Music Festival and San Francisco hospitality entrepreneur Justin Roja.
“Scott called me two-and-a-half years ago about the availability of the venue,” Valentine tells Billboard. “There’s not a lot of opportunities to open a new music venue in San Francisco,” he said, explaining that the building they settled on was originally built in 1911 as an event space for the Native Sons of The Golden West, a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving California landmarks.
“We’re really excited about this transition back into a music venue and away from a nightclub,” Valentine said, noting that they went with Live Nation because “it felt like the right fit both culturally and within their portfolio of venues in the Bay Area. They can build bands to later play the Fillmore or do underplays tied to their events in the Bay Area.”
“Everyone wanted this room,” Goodman tells Billboard, adding that Live Nation will be exclusive talent-buyer and promoter for August Hall, which is named after the building’s 1890 architect August Headman. Capacity will shift from 750 for concerts to 1,000 guests for dance events. August Hall will utilize a d&b audiotechnik sound system and is being designed by Britt Hull of the Tide Design Co. and Parisa O’Connell Interior Design. The main theater stage looks out on to a large GA floor with three full bars and an open balcony, wrap-around grand mezzanine, new sound and lighting booth and semi-private viewing areas. Food service will be available throughout the venue, which is being ticketed by Ticketweb and could host major music performances, movie premieres, conferences, seminars and charity events. There’s an artist green room space with three dressing rooms, shower, washer/dryer and a common space for touring shows, and then a separate pre-and-post event space called The Green Room that will be used for meet and greets.
“Being born and raised in San Francisco, I’ve been working in music in this market a long time, but I’ve never had this kind of opportunity before,” Murphy tells Billboard. “I went to a grammar school four blocks from the venue and took the cable car every day. This space is quintessential San Francisco and with the incredible development happening in the area, there’s not a better time. We dropped everything to pursue this project.”
Downstairs will be sister establishment Fifth Arrow, located in a former Prohibition-era speakeasy. Named after the lane target point used by bowlers, Fifth Arrow will offer three bowling lanes and a menu that serves everything from pizzas to small bites and shareable plates. The kitchen at Fifth Arrow will service the upstairs venue.
Being in a historic building, Valentine said his team is working to preserve the building’s stained glass windows, classic adornments and tributes to members of the conservation society that have included Jack London, Richard Nixon and former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.
“Our goal is to highlight the history and not mask it,” Valentine said. “We had a long process with historic preservation here in San Francisco to preserve the unique elements of this building and bring them to the forefront as opposed to covering them up.”
Learn more at augusthallsf.com.