To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.
You’ve read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.Sign in Subscribe
Don’t have an account yet? Register here.
After a near four-year hiatus, Springfield’s longest-running music venue, the Regency Live, has officially reopened to the public in its original downtown location.
Located at 307 Park Central East, the Regency hosted a soft opening Oct. 21, with a grand opening planned in the first quarter of 2024, owner Gary Thomas said. The venue is in the process of booking bands for the first quarter and is hosting private events throughout the winter, Gary said.
“The music is back” in downtown, Gary said, with a smile. “The music industry is very strong right now, very strong. It’s coming back with a fury.”
Gary has owned and operated the iconic venue in downtown Springfield almost continuously since 1982. He is responsible for bringing acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blue October, Marilyn Manson, No Doubt, Tech N9ne and many more to the Queen City in the 1980’s and ’90’s.
Gary was such a forerunner in bringing life to Springfield’s oldest corridor that he has even been dubbed the “Don of downtown.” His wife of 20-plus years, Cristine Thomas, has been his partner in bringing back the Regency.
Gary has been focusing on bringing “national bands” of notoriety to Springfield, Cristine said, just as he did in the Regency’s infancy.
“He had the golden touch,” Cristine said. “He had the ability to find bands that were just on the cusps of making it. People were blown away by what’d they see here.”
Gary said he aims to bring acts of all genres to Springfield beginning in 2024. He declined to disclose any acts he is currently in negotiations with.
“We have several offers out, but as normal, I can’t say until the contracts close,” Gary said.
The ultimate viewing experience
The couple focused on getting the venue back in shape to deliver the ultimate viewing experience, Gary said. The flexibility in the venue’s setup is one of its strongest selling points, for both the audience and the bands, he said.
“We’re a venue that can do standing, row seating, cabaret or lounge set up,” he said. “We try to create an almost 180-degree viewing.”
Getting the venue ready for a concert experience has been an ordeal. From 2003 to 2012, Gary leased the building to a group that ran it as the Icon Nightclub. Some renovations, like removing a column obstructing some views of the stage, were needed, he said.
In 2015, Gary reopened the Regency and just a few years later, he sold the business to a large, Utah-based music company, Complex. Complex operated out of the Regency for a few years, but after an unsuccessful expansion effort, had to close its business at 307 Park Central East.
Gary and Cristine were in the process of reopening the Regency without the Complex at the end of 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, shutting venues and cancelling shows across the country.
“[The coronavirus pandemic] was really tough on concert venues,” Cristine said. “We’re very fortunate to have made it through and still own this place.”
Renovations to the nearly 10,000 square-foot concert venue are complete, the couple said. Those include a remolded balcony and a new VIP lounge on the Mezzanine level, including multiple seating sections, a bar and many TVs that will broadcast the show in all angles.
The lounge will have a private staircase entrance, complete with a bouncer. Cristine is aiming to deliver a unique concert experience in the lounge, complete with two bartenders and bottle service. Depending on the type of alcohol, bottle service will cost $150 to $350, Cristine said.
“A lot of people like to go to concerts and like being there for the experience, but like to sit and socialize and so forth,” Cristine said. “It’s how music in concerts has evolved.”
The lounge will be perfect for this crowd, and she expects to sell packages to groups of 6 to 10 people, she said.
Bottle service isn’t a requirement for the VIP experience, however. VIP tickets can be purchased in an online package or at the venue for an additional $10, Cristine said.
The Box Office
In addition to reopening the Regency, the couple is opening the Box Office, Tapas and Drinks. The restaurant and bar will serve Mediterranean platters and shareables like charcuterie boards, as well as specialty cocktails, Cristine said.
The Box Office, which will open sometime in December, will only operate on nights there is no show planned at the Regency, Cristine said. The front bar is allocated for the restaurant and they are in the process of making a small kitchen downstairs. It will also use the outdoor patio that has been a staple of the Regency, she said.
Besides the makeovers to the main venue, the Thomases has been in the process of renovating other parts of the building for years. The couple has plans for a second-floor event center, two loft apartments on the third floor and a rooftop bar and restaurant.
They are about 70-percent done with those renovations, Cristine said, which began more than a decade ago. Those plans have had to take a pause as the couple concentrated on opening the Regency, but they plan to begin construction again in about a year-and-a-half, she said.
All permits for the project have been approved and the metal work on the rooftop is already complete, she said. After the full expansion, the Regency will be close to 23,000 square-feet.
The Regency’s reopening, coupled with the opening of the Box Office, will cause be an economic boom to downtown, Cristine said. Business owners in the city’s center have told the couple they’re excited for the additional foot traffic the shows will bring to the corridor, she said.
“[Downtown businesses] feel the impact when all of a sudden 850 people flood the streets,” Cristine said. “We are really wanting to help support the downtown area, in particular Park Central East.”
A rich history
The Regency Live’s rich history will be a key feature in the newly remolded venue, Cristine said. Gary Thomas is a bit of a “pack rat,” and saved hundreds of posters from acts that played at the Regency throughout the years, she said. Those posters will be framed and displayed in the entrance to the venue.
“We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of posters from acts dating back to when he opened,” Cristine said.
Most of the main floor will feature some aspect of the venue’s vast history.
“It’s an iconic venue for music,” Cristine said. “The Regency created two-decades worth of intense live-music lovers.”
The nostalgia of the venue is part of its lure to some fans. “Regency Royals,” or people who frequented the club back in its original run in the 1980’s and ’90’s, have already shown great interest in the venue’s re-opening, Cristine said. Some “Royals” have even offered, half-jokingly, to work without pay just to step foot in the venue again.
“We’ve already created our own base of music-lovers that love the Regency that cannot wait to share that experience with their kids and grandchildren,” she said.
The owners are planning a variety of shows that will bring all ages of audience, Cristine said. As well as hosting private events throughout the winter, the Regency will host a 2-hour live DJ show about once a week. It will feature three DJs on rotation, with two on stage at a time.
The light shows accompanying the DJs will be “extraordinary” and will include hazers and carbon dioxide cannons, Cristine said.
“The effort is to kind of introduce college students to actual shows,” she said.
For the couple, it’s been a decade-long venture to open the Regency back up to Springfield.
“We’re just excited to feel the music in the building again,” Cristine said.