Last weekend a Facebook fan page sprang up for Mississippi Nights, which St. Louisans recall as the much-beloved Laclede's Landing venue that closed in January 2007. Hinting that the venue will reopen in 2010, the page advertised $2,500 "VIP packages" that would net a buyer free tickets, premium parking and other perks and linked to a website called mississippinightslive.com, which is focused on "The History of Mississippi Nights."
Don't consider the return of Mississippi Nights a done deal, though.
"In this environment, I hate to put a timeline out there, to be very honest with you," says Jay Simon, a partner in the embryonic endeavor.
Simon's company, Metropolitan Design & Building Co., co-owns the Laclede Power Building, the proposed site of the new nightspot. The large, red-brick structure, located at the far north end of the Landing, was built in 1901 to supply electricity to the 1904 World's Fair. It is co-owned by Trailnet, a local nonprofit that promotes the merits of physical activity in everyday life.
Simon is partnering with Trailnet to redevelop the Laclede Power Center into what the latter's website describes as "an ideal location for bicyclists, in-line skaters, joggers, hikers, fishermen, history enthusiasts, and nature watchers to enjoy one of the planet's largest river systems." The nonprofit's offices are to be located in the building; Mississippi Nights would also be a tenant.
"We're close to putting things in motion," Simon says of the Mississippi Nights component. "But it's always one step forward, two steps back. We've been keeping a very low profile on time, just because I want to have i's dotted and t's crossed before I really give a timeline.
"Let's put it this way: We've already been close to the closing table, and it got pushed, and I don't want to ride that roller coaster publicly," he adds, laughing.
Similar disclaimers are uttered by the man behind the Facebook page, Jim Callahan. An alum of the '80s local act Big Fun and owner of Jupiter Studios in midtown, Callahan is slated to be director of operations of the new Nights. He says a fall 2010 opening would be a best-case scenario.
Callahan envisions the new venture as "reminiscent of the House of Blues" and hopes to include a restaurant, a live recording booth in the basement and a VIP area. Other proposed amenities: a beer garden, a balcony and a deck overlooking the Mississippi River. Capacity will be 1,000 to 1,200.
"When we lost Mississippi Nights, there was a giant hole that was left right in the music scene of St. Louis," Callahan says. "Being in Jupiter Studios, it's a natural next progression to go from having a full recording schedule into creating a live-music venue.
"Me personally, I'm looking for new challenges that are in the music industry, and it just sounds like a lot of fun -- to get out of the recording part and start getting into the live end," he adds.
Gwendolyn Moore, Trailnet's project manager for the Laclede Power Building, has not responded to an e-mail request for comment.
Despite the name, the proposed club is not affiliated with the former Mississippi Nights. That nightclub, located at 914 North First Street, was razed to make room for the Lumiere Place casino and hotel complex.
"People should just know that this is a new venue, this has nothing to do with Mississippi Nights the old place," emphasizes original Mississippi Nights co-owner Rich Frame. "Nobody's involved with it from our end."
There's also the question of whether the venue can open under the name Mississippi Nights. Simon says it "absolutely" can, noting that he trademarked the name "within the last year."
Tim Weber, booker for the original Mississippi Nights, sees things differently.
"They have absolutely no right to use the name," asserts Weber. "And they certainly have no right to use the logo. There's a reason they didn't go out and buy mississippinights.com -- it's because we still own it. All you can really do with trademarks is register them, and registering them gives you no more protection than simply using the name. We have 27 years of using the name.
"I don't know Jim Callahan, I've met him a few times," Weber goes on. "But he's never had any association with Mississippi Nights -- none. Not even a little bit. I hope he does well in everything, I just hope he doesn't try and call it Mississippi Nights."
We'll keep you updated.