Former movie theater turned concert space is opening in January with STRFKR, Berlin

Drew Dunlevie, president of the Peninsula Arts Guild, on the mezzanine level of the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park last month. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

After nearly a century operating as an art house theater, Menlo Park’s Guild Theatre has been transformed into a nonprofit music venue and event performance space set to open in early 2022 with a robust lineup of acts ranging from local bluegrass prodigy Molly Tuttle to ’80s pop band Berlin to indie rockers STRFKR.

Drew Dunlevie, president of the Peninsula Arts Guild, the nonprofit behind the project, recently gave The Six Fifty a tour of the new, roughly $30 million facility at 949 El Camino Real that aims to bring big live music events to the small city.

Workers tile new restrooms attached to the green room area that will be used by performers at the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park, set to open in 2022. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Throughout the tour, Dunlevie pointed out a number of specific touches planned for the facility: easy access from the side of the building for groups to load their road cases, world-class lighting and sound wiring, a bar, a green room area for performers to relax with a kitchenette, washer, dryer, turntable, two dressing rooms, and a catering kitchen.

It’s also set up with a high-quality HVAC system to quietly push fresh air throughout the building, or on smoky days, recirculate air indoors.

On the ground floor stood the unfinished walls of the box office, lobby, and stage. On the upper level, there is a second bar, a lounge area and a flexible rail system to the left and right sides of the stage to permit either dancing or seating, depending on the act.

The stage under construction in the main room of the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

And, neighboring residents with sensitive ears will be appreciative to know, “no sound will escape when the doors are closed,” Dunlevie says. “It’s built to contain sound.”

Plus, he adds, one of the conditions of the project’s approval was that shows will end at 11 p.m.

In working to line up acts, he says that one draw of the venue for big headliners is that they can use the space to raise funds for the causes they support.

Performing at a Nov. 1 concert just outside Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall, Michigan Rattlers bassist Adam Reed wears a Guild Theatre T-shirt. The team behind the Guild Theatre is hoping that local venues can work together to cross-promote shows. (Photo by Kate Bradshaw)

While the official occupancy of the building still has to be confirmed with the Menlo Park fire marshal, Dunlevie says he expected the capacity to be around 500 people for general admission — standing only — and about 200 for seated attendees.

He says that while the pandemic caused some delays during the initial shutdown last spring, the construction project hasn’t been too delayed otherwise.

“We’re going as fast as we can,” he says.

As for the team financially supporting the nonprofit theater, he says, “They’re all fairly ecstatic.”

“There’s a lot of goodwill in this thing. I think the donors are happy.”

Berlin, STRFKR and Molly Tuttle are among the first acts slated to perform in the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park when it opens to concertgoers Jan. 18. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Upcoming shows at the Guild

The Guild’s opening lineup is: STRFKR (Jan. 18); Son Volt (Jan. 26); Molly Tuttle (Jan. 29); SuperBlue: Kurt Elling featuring Charlie Hunter (Feb. 5); Three Dog Night (Feb. 6 and 7); Aaron Lee Tasjan (Feb. 16); The Samples (Feb. 18); Berlin (Feb. 19); Robert Glasper (Feb. 25); Eric Krasno + Son Little (Feb. 27); Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Dance Party (March 1); Low Cut Connie (March 4); The Blasters (March 26); and Sarah Shook & The Disarmers (March 31).

Tickets go on sale at noon on Dec. 1 at guildtheatre.com, and the venue is currently hiring. Visit their website for more information.

The Peninsula Arts Guild is also exploring whether there is a separate market for weekday Peninsula concerts and weekend bigger-city concerts, and thereby opportunities for cross-promotion, rather than competition with other Bay Area venues, says Dunlevie.

“We believe that there’s enough music to go around,” he says

“We’re going to be Switzerland,” he adds. “We’ll keep smiling and being as sweet as we can.”

Kate Bradshaw

Kate Bradshaw

Bay Area reporter covering local government, inequality and the outdoors

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