Canyon Santa Clarita concert venue opens in early November

Bridgeport Elementary students present the results of their recycling program to judges from Grades for Green on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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The self-proclaimed “king of the thousand-seat concert venue in Southern California” is about to open for business in Santa Clarita.

Sterling Venue Ventures will open The Canyon-Santa Clarita, its fifth Southern California location at Westfield Valencia Town Center mall.

Pending final approvals from the city, the venue will open with a full slate of concerts starting in November.

The 1,100-seat live music and dining venue will occupy a former Red Robin and several adjoining spaces near Sears.

The 17,000-square-foot club will absorb seven previous business sites, including the former location of the Red Robin restaurant. The 1,100-seat facility will offer amenities including premium dining and a two full bars, dinner seating, VIP seating, private rooms, general admission (standing), dancing – and, of course, music.

Canyon Santa Clarita is under construction in Valencia Town Center, and will open in November.

“Most of my work is done,” said owner Lance Sterling. “The kitchen is in, bathrooms were set to go in mid-September. The staging and seating go in overnight, so I’m not so worried about that.”

Sterling has booked 13 shows for November, and is determined the venue will up and running to host them. “I’ve got a million dollars in revenue on the line for November.”

The schedule for the first few months includes Robby Krieger, Dishwalla, Petula Clark, Queen Nation, Lynch Mob, Eddie Money, The English Beat, Donavon Frankenreiter, Kris Kristofferson, Jefferson Starship, and Dokken.

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’s son Jake, who lives in Santa Clarita, will manage the new venue.

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