A Majestic Revival

Just a few short months ago, the historic Majestic Theatre in Madison, Wis., looked like it was headed for the slag heap of once-regal venues fallen on irreversible hard times. Its liquor license had been revoked and its aging and faded interior made it suitable for not much more than dance parties.

Matt Gerding, formerly of CAA, and Scott Leslie, a onetime college buyer and tour manager, bought the property for $1.35 million and hope to re-open it to nationally touring artists by October 1st.

"When I was working for CAA, I found a high demand to play Madison," Gerding told Pollstar. "We would approach this market and not be able to find the right-sized venue or the right fit. It was a market I always felt needed some more options."

The venue has been reconfigured, raising capacity from 500 to 600, and $200,000 in renovations is in the works. The Majestic has a full-proscenium arch stage, balcony and opera boxes. The makeover will include upgraded dressing rooms and restrooms, in addition to fresh paint, new floors, light fixtures and PA.

"We gave our production consultants instructions to make ours the best-sounding room in Madison, and to make it not even close," Leslie said.

The venue, which had been operating as Club Majestic with scattered live shows, became available when the city cracked down on some of the seedier aspects of its nightclub existence. It had become the site of occasional street brawls and gunfire in a neighborhood otherwise marked by art galleries, cafes and upscale lounges.

The club’s liquor license was severely restricted and the theatre was put up for sale last year.

"Madison has about 600,000 people, but also a very small-town feel. It’s a college town also so they don’t take very well to violence," Leslie said. "[Club Majestic] was creating a total hazard for the community so the city shut them down, and the building went up for sale."

Gerding and Leslie secured a liquor license as a condition for the purchase of the building, which closed June 27th. The Majestic, while primarily a concert venue, will also host gallery nights with local artists and show independent and classic films.

The partners are especially optimistic that they’ve come into a market that is on the verge of becoming a regional music Mecca, á la Austin.

"It’s a very culturally aware town. There’s a lot of subculture here and it’s very liberal. The first Sundance theatre in the country just opened here, and Madison is the market they wanted to do it in," Gerding said.