Popular South Bay music venue Saint Rocke gets new lease on life

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Saint Rocke was to shut its doors one final time on Jan. 5, or so it seemed.

Whether hosting a local band or a performer with legend credentials, Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach has been an intimate venue for music lovers since it opened in 2008.

But on Friday, the day following what was billed as the venue’s closing night party, Saint Rocke founder Allen Sanford announced the music spot has a new owner. Sanford said Saint Rocke is going into escrow, but he will stay involved as an investor.

Related: Headliners announced for BeachLife 2023 music festival in Redondo Beach

Sanford said he was surprised to see the emotion Thursday night. So, on Friday morning, he called the new owner, Dani Grant — an investor from Colorado —  to seal the deal.

“The emotion was still there for Saint Rocke in the community,” said Sanford, of the invite-only crowd of about 200. “People really actually cared.”

Feeling the love for Saint Rocke, Sanford said, is what drove the deal across the finish line.

Sanford said the final show before the pandemic shutdown was in March 2020. But they did host a few shows, which were not highly publicized, when the restrictions were lifted to keep their license active.

“It was an economic decision, but it was also a decision where spiritually that business needed a new kind of fresh legs and I couldn’t provide that,” Sanford said.

In phone call Friday, new owner Grant said she first became aware of the music venue while visiting two of her daughters for the Thanksgiving holiday in Hermosa Beach.

Grant drove by Saint Rocke  at 147 Pacific Coast Highway and saw the marquee advertising its sale to “only music lovers.”

That struck a chord, she said.

“It resonated with me and so I emailed him and that’s how it all got started,” Grant said.

In Colorado, Grant acquired her first venue, the historic Mishawaka Amphitheatre in Bellvue, Co., which she said was run by drug dealers but she was able save it.

“We’ve spent the past 12 years cleaning it up and it’s now back to being an internationally recognized venue,” Grant said.

Grant and a business partner also own three bowling alleys, Chipper’s Lanes, all with live music.

On Friday, Grant said she is excited they were able to finalize the deal.

“We didn’t have the final escrow managed and racked up until just now,” Grant said.

The goal is to have a soft opening in March and grand re-opening in April, Grant said.

Grant said they plan to keep the Saint Rocke banner at least for now.

“There’s been some talk about maybe kind of rebranding or doing a facade uplift or something like that, but that’s down the road,” Grant said.

“And Saint Rocke has such a wonderful reputation, you know. I think it’s really in the hearts and minds of the Hermosa Beach lifestyle. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to change it, so we’re kind of leaving it on the table.”

As for the interior of the venue, lighting and audio upgrades might be planned, but she still has not seen the building’s interior.

“I haven’t even walked through the venue,” Grant said. “I bought it sight unseen. I’ve done some research, I’ve talked to people who have played there and been there and that kind of thing.”

Grant said she’s been told the room is beautiful, so a major renovation is probably not needed.

In a text on Friday, professional surfer turned musician Donavon Frankenreiter praised small music venues and said they are a beautiful thing for the community and for local bands. He drew a line between Saint Rocke’s closing and Sanford going on to create BeachLife, a much bigger stage for bands.

Frankenreiter said he was the last musician to perform at Saint Rocke before the shutdown, playing March 6 and 7, 2020.

“It all went down that night,” Frankenreiter said. “Everything around us was closing because of the virus.”

The musician said he and his three-piece band ended the gig and rushed right to the airport to get home.

“No one knew what was going on or what was going to come out of it,” Frankenreiter said.

Of Sanford’s tenure managing Saint Rocke, Frankenreiter said “it was an amazing run” with many great memories.

“Out of that came BeachLife Festival — one of the greatest things to happen for that area and for bands around the world.” Frankenreiter said. “It all has to start somewhere.”

Sanford was influenced by watching his parents attend venues such as The Strand in Redondo Beach which hosted legendary acts Miles Davis and Nina Simone. His first foray into the music business was starting Saint Rocke, essentially, because he wanted somewhere near his South Bay home to go listen to music.

“We were excited back then,” Sanford said. “We were young kids, we didn’t know what we were doing. It definitely was the origin of what what I’m doing now in music for sure.”

And now, the BeachLife Festival attracts tens of thousands of concert goers over its the three-day event.

Thursday’s “closing night” party was for BeachLife Festival ticket holders as well as a way to celebrate the upcoming 2023 BeachLife Festival in May.

The inaugural BeachLife Festival took place in 2019 in Redondo Beach with headliners Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir.

On Jan. 6, the 2023 lineup was announced and will be headlined by The Black Keys, Orange County native Gwen Stefani and The Black Crowes. The event will also feature many local favorites including Tomorrows Bad Seeds, who headlined Thursday’s event.

Tomorrows Bad Seeds, formed in Hermosa Beach nearly 20 years ago, performed along with the local duo Aragorn & Gavin.

For those in the audience and those on stage, Thursday night was one of remembrance.

Moises Juarez, Coleen Sanford and Allen Sanford at a party at Saint Rocke on Jan. 5, 2023. (Photo by Ron Vasques)

Gavin Heaney, half of the Aragorn & Gavin duo and also known around town as Latch Key Kid, recalled chatting with The Doors drummer Robby Krieger about the legendary band’s formation in a Manhattan Beach garage. While TBS lead singer Moises Juarez said his band was one of the first bands to perform at their hometown club.

On Friday, Heaney also remembered one of Toots and The Maytals last shows and Scott Weiland’s escapades backstage, as well as opening for Blind Melon, Big Head Todd and The Young Dubliners were some of his favorite moments.

“It’s ironic that you don’t know that you’re a part of history while it’s happening,” Heaney said. “Looking back I’m amazed at how great Saint Rocke was and talking with everyone last night, hearing all their stories, I realize it has become legendary.”

Redondo Beach’s Randy Chepenik said Thursday night seeing Frankenreiter at the intimate venue about eight years ago was a highlight of his years going to the club.

“This place is great, I got it, I understand why it’s here,” Chepenik said when he first saw Frankenreiter .

“I’m glad to be here tonight,” Chepenik added.

Staff writer Lisa Jacobs contributed to this report.

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