LAKESHORE - The Looney’s Tavern Entertainment and Cultural Center in Lakeshore is about to be rocking with live entertainment, as plans are underway to showcase the Dual Destiny Theater starting May 5-6.
A meeting of the minds Wednesday, March 15, at the building formerly known as Sister Sarah’s restaurant brought together major contributors and supporters of the arts, not just in Winston, but Cullman County, to plan the big kickoff weekend.
The goal is to have not just live entertainment but, over time, other forms of the arts, in order to bring new life back into the former Looney’s Tavern complex, which has been vacant for years.
Those who sat around the official meeting of the Winston County Arts Council (which purchased the Looney’s complex last year), included economic development officials, as well as those representing Sipsey Entertainment, a musical fundraising platform which has lined up musical entertainment at the complex from May-September.
The platform is a way to generate revenue for venues like Looney’s and other areas, according to Bart Crabtree, who has secured live entertainment at the complex through the end of September.
The kickoff weekend for the new Looneys’ complex experience is the band Majestic: A Tribute to Journey, which will perform songs by the classic band Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6, at the Dual Destiny Theater. Shows start at 8 p.m., with tickets available through sipseyentertainment.com.
Crabtree noted he had been interested in raising funds to build an amphitheater when he heard of the arts council’s plans for the former Looney’s property and reached out to Arts Council President J.D. Snoddy.
Crabtree agreed to secure live music for a summer concert series at Looney’s, with a series of artists and musicians scheduled to pay tribute to classic artists and bands, including Phil Collins, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Prince and others.
“We want you to come to a show and feel like you are going to that actual band’s show,” Crabtree said.
Each band will perform both Friday and Saturday nights so more tickets can be sold, according to Crabtree.
The only weekends this summer when there will not be a concert will series will be the first weekend in June during Haleyville’s 9-1-1 Festival and holiday weekends.
The Dual Destiny Theater can seat 271, while the amphitheater is capable of seating up to 1,500, according to arts council members. Plans are to first complete renovations of Dual Destiny so it will be ready for the kickoff events, May 5-6, arts council members discussed at their March 15, meeting.
Snoddy noted that grant money the arts council receives goes into an account for renovations and improvements underway at Looney’s. At the end of February, the arts council had $58,986.35 in that account, Snoddy explained. However, some of that has already been spent on ongoing renovations and improvements, he emphasized.
The arts council has a separate account from where bills are paid, Snoddy noted, adding at the time of the meeting that account contained $17,764.31, which continues to increase depending on donations and contributions.
“We are working diligently to get Dual Destiny ready for concerts. That’s the number one priority,” Snoddy pointed out at the meeting.
Belinda Hyatt, representing Cullman Economic Development, informed those at the meeting of some recommended strategies as they move foward. Hyatt began by informing that word needs to be circulating about the upcoming events being planned.
“The whole community, not just here, but all the outside communities need the excitement of it,” Hyatt noted. “What you want to do is pull from everybody. You want to create an online presence where people can go get all excited and this information keeps going out,” Hyatt explained.
“Keeping the curiosity up, the excitement, people talking,” she continued. “It’s going to take more than this community to really advertise and get this thing sold out.”
Hyatt reminded that those coming into Winston County for these live events and shows are also boosting the county’s economic development by purchasing gas, food and other items.
“This is a chance to sell Winston County,” Hyatt pointed out. “There is so much here to see.
“This will be the best thing ever to build up Winston County and get people in,” continued Hyatt.
Supporter David Asch asked about placing an electronic sign on Highway 278, to let motorists know about the Looney’s complex and the entertainment there.
“That’s a lot of traffic going by and you have an event coming up,” Asch said.
Lesley Hyde, owner of Southern Ghost Girls Tours, stressed that the Looney’s complex, specifically Sister Sarah’s Restaurant, would be an ideal location for murder/mystery dinner shows and other events they host.
“We have about 25,000 followers on Facebook,” Hyde said. “We are known all over Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia. We bring tourism.”
A portion of proceeds raised through Southern Ghost Girls Tours goes back into historical preservation, Hyde said.
“We give back to the community at all of our events,” she said.“It is the smaller communities like this that really get the biggest reception and crowd.”
Other plans for the Looney’s complex are to showcase student art projects, as well as teach art classes and have plays and other shows, according to council members.
The former putt-putt golf course will be reinstated, with each hole having the theme of a historical area of Winston County, Arts Council Vice President Theresa Snoddy explained.
Plans are also in the works in July for a Prayer and Patriotism service for local and area churches to dismiss their Sunday evening services and come to the amphitheater complex for music and fellowship, J.D. also said.
Plans are to do restoration work at the amphitheater once the work at Dual Destiny has been completed, arts council members said.
The arts council has hired David Jacobs as project manager for Looney’s.
“We want to see more people involved. I am real encouraged because of the people here giving us ideas on how we need to promote and actually bring income in that will help us restore this whole complex,” Jacobs said.
More information can be found online at winstoncountyartscouncil.org.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.