Raise your glass: The State Theatre is expanding its cocktail capabilities.
The historic downtown Modesto venue is doubling the area for its concessions and plans to add more food options down the line.
Already completed is an “overflow” concession space in the lobby. In addition, the outdoor ticket window has been moved to the opposite side of the theater’s facade; the $100,000 project will add a second outdoor ticket window to ease lines for high-demand events.
“Right now we do cash ticket (sales) on the street – we’re out making change on the sidewalk,” said theater Executive Director Sue Richardson. “It’s a crazy system.”
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The expansion has become a necessity with lines for snacks and drinks that can stretch through the lobby during some events, she said. There’s always a market for the traditional offerings – hot dogs, popcorn, soda and the like – but cocktails have upped the cash flow for the nonprofit.
“It’s been a saving grace,” Richardson said.
Also a saving grace for the theater has been the help of Danny Savage, co-owner of Paradigm Construction Inc., which is doing the expansion work at the theater for cost. The State holds a special place in Savage’s heart: his grandfather, Joe Savage, was the longtime projectionist there, as well as at other theaters in Modesto, and Danny was a regular as a child. “I would just run around the lobby, the auditorium, the booth, behind the screen ... any place I could find,” he said.
“It seems like we were always at one of the theaters because he was always fixing something in one of them,” Savage said in an email. “And when something wasn’t broken it seems like we were still always there watching movies or visiting the other projectionists.”
We can’t wait for everyone to see the finished product, have a drink, eat some popcorn and go see a movie.
Contractor Danny Savage on the State Theatre project
Savage said the State project offered a way for him and his partner, Shawn Hemiller, to give back to the community, “especially to something that was such a big part of my childhood and the source of so many wonderful memories.”
“This is of course a special circumstance, but we made a decision which we believe is good for us, good for the State Theatre and good for the Modesto community,” he added. “My childhood ties to the State just make it that much more relevant and meaningful.”
While that has helped mitigate the cost of the project, Richardson said the State still must raise funds for the rest and seeks help from donors large and small who can go online at www.thestate.org or call 209-527-4697 to contribute.
As the expansion takes shape, Richardson intends to add espresso and light food to go along with cocktails, beer, wine and the usual theater food and refreshment trappings. Sidewalk seating also is in the plan for the future. Food will be prepackaged, not made at the theater, and Richardson is looking at items such as quiches, bagels, paté, fruits, cheeses and other “nosh plates.”
That the theater could even sell hard liquor was more than a surprise to Richardson. Mitch Maisetti – who co-owned Tresetti’s World Caffe before his death last year – called her out of the blue about six years ago while he was at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control offices in Stockton and told her the theater had a full liquor license. Richardson could not believe it.
“We wound up in a ‘yes you do, no we don’t’ argument for at least five minutes. He was so excited. And I was so skeptical. But if anyone knew about that sort of thing, it was Mitch,” she said.
Before long, the theater was selling cocktails along with the beer and wine it already offered. Shortly after, they established a partnership with Modesto’s Cold House Vodka.
And with that, the “State-tini” was born. Cold House began creating specialty martinis that change out monthly, as well as cocktails for many of the theater’s special events.
Staff at the State have been trained to mix cocktails, but for bigger events, professional bartenders are hired.
Response, along with other concession offerings, have taxed the lobby space.
“We cannot keep up with the demand,” Richardson said. “If we have a big concert or rental or a big movie, we’ll have a line of 100 stretched into the lobby.”
Never mind that the space to make cocktails for all those patrons has been done on a small cart Richardson bought at a garage sale and tucked into the back of the concession area. “It’s crazy how we (have been) doing this,” she said. “We do our best, but it’s so hard to keep up.”
The partnership with Cold House will continue, and Richardson said the State also will partner with Do Good Distillery of Modesto to create more signature cocktails.
It’s part of an effort to “focus on local,” she said, adding the State serves snacks and drinks from several regional businesses such as nuts from Naraghi Farms, beer from Dust Bowl Brewing Company, Gallo and Frank Family Vineyards wines, and Indigeny Reserve Hard Apple Cider.
Savage expects the work to be done by Sept. 11. The theater remains open during construction, with a slate of films this week and a concert scheduled for Saturday.
“I am thrilled to say that we are capable of accomplishing anything, so we will not skip a beat in spite of the demolition, the dust and the noise,” Richardson added in an email. “We will be open throughout the build-out.”
Pat Clark: 209-578-2312