Under the Hood with Putnam Place
Saratoga venue waits it out and plans ahead to a noisy future
Nippertown talks shop with Gary ‘Sly’ Fox, General Manager at Putnam Place in downtown Saratoga Springs.
What is Putnam Place’s current status?
Gary Fox: Putnam Place (PP) is currently open only for private parties and special events due to COVID-19. For example, we will be open for the Super Bowl. We plan to get back to our regular schedule of live music 3 to 4 nights a week as soon as March depending on the situation.
What’s the operating structure of PP?
GF: We are owned by a local attorney / businessman / philanthropist while operations are run by General Manager Gary “Sly” Fox, plus a great core staff standing by.
Let’s do a quick history of the venue:
Owner 1: a pool hall with an all ages thing. Metal and hard music dominated
Owner 2: (Putnam Den) grew from local music place to a tour stop. A niche in jam and roots rock.
Owner 3: (Putnam Place) shifted a bit into club land stuff with fewer touring acts.
Q: Was that just experimenting? Or some trial and errors.. or…what?
GF: That’s a fair analysis
What’s the official capacity; as in pre-COVID max?
Do you have infrastructure for seated shows (i.e., chairs)?
GF: I’ll probably buy 2 stacks of 50 this year. I was about to do that when this hit. They are stackable and we have rented them in the past
Let’s talk music programming & strategy, post-COVID?
GF: We can’t wait to get back to our regular programming of offering the best national and regional touring bands and filling in the holes with top notch local talent. We strive to be a home for all artists and genres with a strong emphasis on live original music.
Touring acts, covers, dance?
GF: I want it to be a touring stop – 110% — with original acts to dominate , both local and touring. But there are not that many local original bands and reality is that there are not a ton of mid level road bands, either. Given we don’t want to repeat acts too frequently, there will certainly end up being holes to fill. But: minimal cover bands and dance parties.
Will you book shows in-house vs outside promoters; or a combo?
GF: Combo, ideally as many outside promoter shows as possible.
Upstate Music Hall is moving south to Albany. That spread-out should help?
I know you want to mix genres. Do you envision one being a strength or a niche?
GF: The qualifiers are high quality and unique.
Have you had success in booking non-music events: parties, business meetups, etc?
GF: We’ve opened the door for private parties as well as fundraisers and charity events. we hope to do even more ahead.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
GF: COVID has been a beast for everyone as we know, at Putnam we have gone above and beyond the required NYS guidelines to secure the safety of our customers, staff, and artists and will continue to do so. The restrictions on needing to be closed by 10 pm and not allowing us to advertise or have ticketed (paid) shows have proven to be the biggest obstacles.
Any help on the way?
GF: Thankfully there is an effort we have been part of involving NIVA and NYVIA and championed by Senator Chuck Schumer to offer some relief for our industry. Many venues have had to close permanently and many more are on the ropes but my hope is that the SVOG grants provided by Senator Schumer will help get our industry over this rough period of time and to the light at the end of the tunnel.
My personal hopes and prayers are that with the vaccinations becoming widespread and warmer weather around the corner that the COVID numbers will drop sharply and summer will be good for mainly outside events on our patio.
GF: Hopefully by fall we will be back at it inside close to normal capacity and rules.
Are you pursuing the “Shuttered Venues” $$$$ ?
You can’t do both that and PPP #2 — correct?
Any food plans; post-COVID?
GF: We may put in a small kitchen. But oddly enough, the hot dogs have been a hit and I got a pizza machine that holds 5 pies. But I would love to have a small kitchen.
There is always chatter — and fear — of live music venues not surviving. The reaction from Putnam’s perspective?
GF: Putnam Place is 100% staying open we have big plans for the future. We have 5- and 10-year plans and the team in place to make it all happen!
I want to get more involved in the overall community, doing more benefits and more arts of all kinds. I want it to really be a haven for local original artists of all mediums and a pillar for the community. I am also working on a music program for children as well as other things.
We aren’t going anywhere but up!
OK, thanks. There was some good news in here.
GF: Ok brother, please say hello to Jim and thanks for what you guys are doing! Stay safe. We will all get through this together!! TY!!