Live music venue coming this fall

Lance Sterling, owner of the Canyon Club, which is expanding to Santa Clarita. Courtesy Photo

An 1,100-seat live music venue is coming to Santa Clarita this fall. Sterling Venue Ventures will open its fifth Southern California location at Westfield Valencia Town Center mall. Canyon Club Santa Clarita will occupy a former Red Robin and adjoining space.

Lance Sterling started the company in 2001 with the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills. He’s since opened the Sabon in Beverly Hills and the Rose in Pasadena, and manages the Libbey Bowl, an outdoor venue in Ojai.

“Living in Agoura, we understand Santa Clarita,” Sterling said. “We know our audience. Nobody in either place wants to drive to downtown LA for a show. They also don’t want to have to stand up for three hours.” His venues feature dinner seating that can be cleared for a dance floor and some standing room.

Adding a fifth location gives Sterling additional leverage as he books acts in competition with Southern California’s two dominant concert promoters, AEG and Live Nation. “An act that plays for them can’t play for us for six months,” he said, due to contract terms known as radius clauses. “Having multiple venues allows us to compete by booking acts for multiple nights.”

Sterling’s venues range between 760 and 2,000 seats. Santa Clarita’s will feature a CaliBurger outlet, bar, VIP lounge, and full dinner service, in a space of 25,000 to 30,000 square feet.

Sterling says he gets calls from cities all over Southern California trying to recruit the company, but Santa Clarita, like Pasadena last year, stood out in their willingness to work with the company to make the move as painless as possible.

The city has received numerous requests from residents for more live music options said Evan Thomason, economic development associate with the city. Santa Clarita’s economic development office recruited Sterling and gave him a tour that included 15 possible sites. “This is a big win,” Thomason said. “Last year, they opened the Rose in Pasadena and we expect the venue in Santa Clarita will be similar in size.”

“We’re a family-owned business, so we have to control our growth and manage our risk,” said Sterling, who helped develop the House of Blues chain in the 1990s. He caters to an audience that can afford a night out for live music, but no longer has the time or energy to make it an all-night proposition.

“Our headliners start at 9 p.m., not at 8:59, not at 9:01,” he said. “And the show is done by 10:30. Our customers aren’t going to have 10 drinks, they’re going to have 1.7. They’re not afraid of paying $30 for a steak, but it had better be perfect.”

Westfield has been in talks with Sterling for months, he said. “We know that when 1,000 people come to one of our shows, we only feed about 250 of them. So that’s 750 potential customers for nearby restaurants.”

Sterling has a lease on the space and an architect to design it, and is working on figuring out what the audience here wants to hear. He wants Santa Clarita residents to let him know what bands to book at the new venue. Upcoming acts at the Rose in Pasadena provide a taste of the range of artists Sterling books. This month’s headliners include War, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Taj Bachman, Jefferson Starship, Eric Johnson, Eddie Money, Cubensis with Groove Session & Strawberry Moon, and Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles.

Audience demographics differ at each of the company’s venues, and Sterling expects Santa Clarita’s audience to skew younger than Agoura Hills, while Pasadena skews older. “One thing we know,” he said, “is that Pat Benatar sells out everywhere.”

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