The College Street Music Hall is bringing more than just musicians to New Haven — it is attracting millennials to nearby bars and restaurants, reinforcing College Street as a center of city nightlife.
Since it opened in May, the Music Hall has drawn roughly 20,000 people to concerts that appeal to young adults. While the Schubert Theater across from it will continue showing traditional musicals and family-friendly shows, city officials said they think the new concert venue is already changing the demographics of visitors to the Elm City. The space, which previously housed the Palace Theater, had been closed for 12 years until the city renovated and reopened it. Managers at bars and restaurants on College Street said the Music Hall, which has a capacity of 1,800, is bringing them more customers than before, many who come from outside New Haven to see shows.
“Those are real numbers that actually move the needle for restaurants,” said City Economic Director Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81, adding that the Music Hall attracts many different kinds of people because it has an “ever-changing flow of music that could be the Beach Boys one day and could be Beach House another.”
The Shubert Theater, which seats 1,600 and opened in 1914, was successful through the 1990s and 2000s by selling subscriptions to families and baby boomers who came to see musicals, Nemerson said. The Music Hall’s clientele are mostly younger — typically between 18 and 45 years old — and can buy tickets at the door for between $30 and $40 for most shows. The Schubert offers tickets that commonly range between $35 and $140.
Because tickets at the Music Hall are usually cheaper than tickets at other venues like the Shubert, concertgoers may have extra money to eat dinner, get a drink or shop nearby, Nemerson said.
Further, shop owners interviewed said the Music Hall has created a safer atmosphere on the strip of College Street between Chapel and Crown streets. Despite being a hub of city and college nightlife, this block is a safe space, said Ryan Howard, a managing partner at Elm City Social Kitchen and Cocktails, adding that the Music Hall brings large crowds to the area and draws attention to the bars nearby.
“Everybody that [the hall] brings in are really cool, down-to-earth people,” said Howard.
But even for businesses that do not explicitly cater to younger generations, the Music Hall has brought an uptick in customer traffic. Rachel Pritchard, a barista at the Owl Shop, and Richard Purpora Sr., the owner of Star Shoe Repair, both said they were pleased that the space has brought new life back to the area. Purpora had one concern: “Parking can be a little difficult.”
While College Street Music Hall now competes with Toad’s in attracting musical talent to New Haven, Toad’s Owner Brian Phelps said his establishment still dominates York Street’s nightlife scene. He added that Toad’s also caters to an eclectic audience that includes Yale students, high schoolers and 70-year-olds alike.
“We’re a totally multi-platform type of venue,” Phelps said. “There’s no one genre or group that we don’t include.”
Some businesses have gone so far as to partner with the Music Hall. Geronimo, a Mexican restaurant down the block, opened a taco cart inside the lobby. Jessica Howe, a manager at Geronimo, said the restaurant has become a staple in New Haven, although she added that the taco cart was not opened for marketing purposes.
Music halls are becoming popular venues across the Northeast, Nemerson added, citing music halls in Port Chester, New York and Northampton, Massachusetts. The kind of bands that play 1,000 to 2,000 seat venues tend to be bands that also appeal to young demographics, he said. And, according to Nemerson, the College Street Music Hall is already making a name for itself for its high-quality sound and light system.
If the College Street Music Hall maintains its current rate of attendance, the venue is on track to draw over 100,000 people each year, putting it among New Haven’s largest attractions, said Nemerson.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, a Scottish alternative rock band, will perform at the Music Hall next Wednesday.