PORTLAND — Prospects for more live music in Portland grew brighter Wednesday, when two of the leading independent music promoters in the Northeast announced plans to reopen the State Theatre on Congress Street this fall.

The theater, at 609 Congress St., has been closed since 2006. When it reopens, it will seat about 1,450 people on the main floor and in the balcony.

The new operation is a joint effort by The Bowery Presents, a New York-based music company, and Higher Ground Presents, a music promoter from Vermont. The companies will operate the State as equal partners, and have signed a long-term lease with the theater’s owner, Stone Coast Properties.

Lauren Wayne, a Portland music  industry insider, will run the theater as general manager and will be responsible for booking and promoting all concerts. Wayne, whose office will be in the State, has resigned from the Boston office of Live Nation, a national concert promoter, to take the State job.

She also books concerts at the Port City Music Hall, a 650-person capacity club on Congress Street a few blocks from the State. She will continue her work for Port City while running the State, she said.

“This is where my heart is, and this is where I want to be,” Wayne said Wednesday. “I love Portland, I know Portland and I know the community.”


Wayne said she hopes to book about 80 concerts a year, and pledged to hire a variety of bands and performers.

“There are concerts out there, and I know we can bring them to Portland. We’re doing it now at Port City, and we’ll be able to do it on a different level at the State,” she said.

Ron Goglia, president of Stone Coast Properties, declined to discuss details of the lease, other than to characterize it as a long-term agreement.

Stone Coast has been working to improve the theater, spending $700,000 for a new ceiling, wiring, bathrooms, a fire escape, fire doors, a fire alarm and detection system and other fixes.

As general manager, Wayne will continue the renovation process by overseeing improvements to the stage and the modernization of the building’s acoustics and sound system.

In addition, the entire theater will get new seating, and new sight lines. With the reseating, the building’s capacity is expected to be about 1,450, Wayne said. That’s slightly smaller than Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, which seats 1,800 people and offers a more formal space.


Goglia said he and his new partners plan to talk with city officials about replacing the theater marquee and front entrance on Congress Street. “We hope to bring some pizazz to the State, as least as much as the Historic Preservation Committee will let us do,” he said.

This is the second major renovation of the theater since the early 1990s. It opened originally in 1929 as a first-run movie house, with 2,300 seats. By the 1960s, it had become a porn theater, and by the late 1980s it had fallen into disrepair and closed.

The first effort to save the theater was a great success, at least aesthetically. Among the performers who came to State in the early days of its reopening was Bob Dylan, and over the years the theater hosted concerts by David Bryne, John Hiatt, the Flatlanders and Ray LaMontagne.

It also became a great place for local bands to prove themselves. Later, in its final act before it closed in 2006, it was home for a regular slate of all-age shows.

Jim Glancy, a partner in Bowery Presents, said the State “definitely represents a chance. Anyone opening a new business in any field understands the risk involved. But from the size of the venue we’re talking about and the number of shows that could come in there, we feel like there is tremendous potential.”

Early Wednesday morning, Glancy sent an e-mail announcing the news about the State to music industry insiders. He said, “The response has been over the top. I think it’s going to be good.”

In a prepared statement, Higher Ground’s co-owner Alex Crothers called the State “a jewel in the Portland-area music scene and a legacy in New England. Reopening the theater provided the perfect opportunity to work with Bowery Presents. … Our companies share the same philosophy for restoring the State Theatre and bringing quality entertainment to the area.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

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