Renovate downtown venue looks to make its mark on the Scranton Scene.
Patrons of the many establishments on Adams Avenue in Scranton have gazed upon an empty façade for years. The shuttered Moonshine Theatre only hosted a few performances before closing for good and has tantalized passers-by ever since. The building will finally see new life when The Leonard Theater, 335-339 Adams Ave., Scranton, opens its doors this week.
“The building was built in 1897 as an opera house,” said Jessica Kalinoski, director of operations for The Leonard. “Throughout the years, it changed hands — it was a vaudeville theater. If you look up the history of vaudeville in Scranton, someone who was involved with vaudeville said ‘if you can play in Scranton, you can play anywhere.’ It was definitely on that route.”
The theater changed hands throughout its history, hosting the Knights of Columbus, Diva Theater and even a speakeasy during the prohibition era. The Diva Theater occupied the space from 1997 to 2004 and the ground floor housed Leonard’s hardware store for more than a century. The new name pays tribute to the former Adams Ave. landmark. “We figured people would be able to relate to it and we always try to keep the history of all the projects we get into,” said Kalinoski.
The Leonard owner Charlie Jefferson of Scranton LTI holdings LP has a hand in several downtown projects — 426 Mulberry and the Connell building — as well as Montage Mountain. “He loves historical buildings, reinventing them and repurposing them,” said Kalinoski. “We’ve been successful in our other projects in Scranton and we talk to a lot of the tenants. People are always looking for an additional entertainment venue for concerts and things of that nature. We knew there was a market here for it.”
The building was thoroughly renovated when it changed hands in 2004, but the new management is freshening things up with new coats of paint and making repairs. Future updates will include the addition of an elevator, as well as new sound and lighting for the stage. “The biggest overhaul we’re doing right now is the facade in the front of the building,” said Kalinoski. We’re redoing the entire facade and that work should be done in the next month or so.”
The Leonard will be multipurpose, hosting a variety of events which will be serviced by the full bar. “We’ve already started booking,” said Kalinoski. “We have weddings, several Christmas parties, other bands that want to do shows, the Electric City Music Conference is going to be at The Leonard. Leadership Lackawanna is going to do a murder mystery dinner, we’re going to comedy shows, concerts. We’re going to work with some national booking agents and get some bands in whether they’re up and coming, or they’re between shows or they want to do acoustic shows. We can do pretty much anything. Standing room only is about 1,000 to 1,200. For weddings and events like that we can do about 400 with a dance floor, or mixers with high top tables like a cocktail hour.”
The theater will be part of a growing community on the 300 block of Adams Ave, which is home to downtown fixture The Bog, Eden — a Vegan Cafe, Thai Rak Thai, Embassy Vinyl and will soon host a second location for Loyalty Barber Shop and Shave Parlor.
“We’re taking it and actually creating jobs. We’re talking about who’s going to run it and who’s going to manage it,” said Kalinoski. “We’re hiring bartenders and servers and it’s helping revitalize that block for sure. The Bog and Thai Rak Thai are going to do well before and after shows and things of that nature — there are a lot of places that are going to benefit after we’re open.”
University of Scranton students will also have a new location for events and The Leonard has been working with student and university leaders to plan new events. “It’s a need they’ve really talked about a lot in the past here, a place where they can get a DJ or some bands,” said Kalinoski. “I’m excited to get them down there. We’ve been working with the University of Scranton and they’ve been fully engaged in what we want to do with the place and pushing word out to the students.”
After a long history and recent hiatus, it’s time for some new life downtown. The Leonard represents the ongoing strength of the Scranton scene and will provide another great space for events and entertainment. Those interested in booking can contact email@example.com and for more information, visit theleonardtheater.com.
Check out Electric City and the570.com for full event listings.
— tucker hottes