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St. Petersburg’s State Theatre for sale after struggles with fire code violations

The State Theatre, a live music institution in downtown St. Petersburg, is for sale.

A few months after a string of fire code violations and inspections led to a downsized crowd capacity at the long-running concert venue, the company that runs it has listed the property and business at 687 Central Ave. for $1.9 million.

State Theatre general manager Kendra Marolf said that figure is the list price for both the building, which has one group of owners; and the business that operates the concert venue, owned by a different group. As part of its long-term lease, the business' owners have a window in which they may solicit buyers for both. The State hit the market in December and could remain there through the summer. After that, the right to sell reverts back to the property owners.

"Our hope is that they buy the building and the business and it just remains the State Theatre," Marolf said. "We wanted to stay alive, and that's why it's for sale. We don't want something to happen to it where it just goes out of business and then goes to a fire sale. "

RELATED: Amid fire code violations, the State Theatre struggles to keep shows

The problems date back to November 2016, when a safety inspection uncovered 30 fire code violations related to lights, wiring, accessibility and emergency exits. After a handful of follow-up inspections, the city fire marshal slashed the venue's approved concert capacity from 705 to less than 400, forcing a string of high-profile concerts to move elsewhere. Marolf said owners lost around $250,000 in profit in 2017.

This week, the fire marshal approved a new capacity of 600, with no outstanding violations, and the venue is still booking shows. But Marolf said the hit was "pretty devastating, financially," and owners — including Anthony Dagostino, whose businesses have included Sculley's restaurant and the Hut bar in John's Pass Village — are looking for a way out. If they can't sell both the business and property as a package, she said, they'll entertain "any options or offers that come along that are serious."

"They've done everything the fire marshal has requested to try and get the capacity up," said Tony Rifugiato, one of the building's owners and a concert promoter who has booked many shows there. "Maybe they just don't want to deal with it anymore."

From a concert promoter's perspective, Rifugiato said the diminished capacity makes it a "scramble" to book the right acts.

"Personally, I'd hate to see the State Theatre go," he said. "I think a good majority of the public in town would hate to see the State Theatre go. I would say it's an integral part of the fabric of what St. Pete is becoming."

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Marolf said the business is plugging along the best it can, filling its weekends with more nightclub-like nights. A handful of concerts are on the calendar for this spring, including Clean Bandit, Keller Williams, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Peter Hook and the Light.

"We've been trying to keep it afloat with love as it is," Marolf said. "We just have to generate some kind of income to keep it alive. The inevitable is something we don't want to imagine."

— Jay Cridlin

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St. Petersburg’s State Theatre for sale after struggles with fire code violations