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Winston’s Roost: Discovering a 1940s Nightclub at The Granada Theatre

What if you could be transported back to the golden era of New York in the mid-20th century with the intimacy of a private nightclub and with dancing to a live orchestra? Sometimes those kinds of nostalgic dreams do come true — and on State Street!

Currently The Granada Theatre is experimenting with just such an idea. Iconically named “Winston’s Royal Roost” (also known as Winston’s Roost), this sophisticated nightclub with a little French flair in its café style seating, wine bar, dance floor, and live four- to five-piece band is gradually making its way into the hearts and schedules of many in the Santa Barbara community … when they manage to stumble on it.

“We came in because we heard great music pouring out of the windows upstairs. The doors were open and the people at the front table said ‘Come on in!’ so we did,” said Paula von Simson, M.D., of Casa Dorinda and Dr. Blas Garza, former superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District. After taking a few spins on the dance floor, Paula said, “This is a great idea!”

Adele Rosen, one of the founding board members of the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts and a leader in the Jewish community, echoed those sentiments with her own words when she discovered the event while walking down State Street one night. “You’ve got a winning ticket here!” she said.

"You know, it’s interesting,” said The Granada Theatre’s Chrisman Executive Director Dr. Craig Springer. “I keep being asked why The Granada Theatre doesn’t market this event more. The truth is the upstairs McCune Founders room can only hold so many people and we’re rather enjoying the process of seeing how many people show up via word of mouth, an email, or strolling down the street. We’re observing that people repeatedly come back after they discover us because they want to participate in a sophisticated venue. It’s one of those best kept secrets that’s growing.”

“This was also initially an idea ‘in progress,’” development director Kristi Newton explained. “We wanted to test it out a bit first, and fine tune it. For example, we started without a dance floor, just dancing on the carpet, and quickly realized that dancers — people who really love to dance — won’t come in and dance without a dance floor. Now we bring in a dance floor every time we host the event. We also wanted to experiment with charging vs. not charging for tickets. Currently, we charge a nominal cover fee of $20 at the door and ahead of time online to help defray our costs, but we waive the $20 cover charge for all of our Granada Theatre Giving Society members and we also let others in for free sometimes.

“The goal is to cast a wider net around town and attract into The Granada Theatre not only those who enjoy sitting and watching a variety of stage performances, but also those who like casual, engaging, participatory events. Winston’s Roost provides sophisticated live music that extends back over the decades to match the classy setting. Woody DeMarco, a highly respected pianist in town, is our band leader for each event. He puts a great band together and brings in visiting singers from as far away as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even New York! Winston’s Roost is very much like a classic, hip New York nightclub.

“There is also something really special about the McCune Founders Room, where the event is held,. In some ways, it is the heart of The Granada Theatre, because it is so accessible and welcoming. We often use the room to raise interest in and awareness of The Granada Theatre and attract donations.”

Dr. Springer added, “We could take the posture that every great idea should make money for The Granada Theatre, and make it rather quickly. But that’s not always the best way to grow a community jewel. We want Santa Barbara to feel a sense of ownership and partnership with The Granada Theatre. For this reason, we’ve designed Winston’s Roost to take a longer, wider view of what The Granada Theatre can provide for the community on more levels. After all, the theatre’s mission is ‘to serve Santa Barbara by providing a vibrant, welcoming venue where the very best artistic performances are made available to the widest possible audience, promoting appreciation for the performing arts and enhancing the quality of life in our community.’ Now that we’ve proven to ourselves that the idea is a hit, we’re pursuing sponsors, so that the event can become available for more people.”

For those who remember the theater’s grand reopening in 2008, The Granada Theatre was restored back to its original, rich 1924 grandeur and enhanced to compete with some of the most acoustically precise, gorgeous, yet comfortable theaters in the world. The number of donors has also grown over the last few years from about 120 to more than 600, with individual donations ranging from $5 to more than $5 million.

Winston’s Roost has two more planned dates this year: Tuesday, Nov. 18 and Tuesday, Dec. 16.

“We schedule Winston’s Roost when there’s an otherwise dark night at The Granada Theatre. Hence the reason the day of the week can change from month to month,” Dr. Springer explained. “It is purely coincidental that the last two WR events of 2014 fall on a Tuesday.”

For more information, click here or phone 805.899.2222. For sponsorship information, contact Newton at 805.899.3000.

— Jonatha King is a publicist representing The Granada Theatre.

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