Variety Playhouse is sold to new owners, Agon Entertainment

Expect new faces at the Variety Playhouse, the Little Five Points music venue.

Owner Steve Harris, who took over a defunct movie palace in 1990 and turned it into one of Atlanta’s favorite club-sized concert halls, has sold the business to Agon Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Georgia Theatre in Athens.

Harris will stay on as a consultant for a year, according to Agon managing partner Chris Schoen, who added “our hope is he will stay on longer.”

Schoen said other staff at the Variety, including longtime manager Brad Syna, are “anticipated” to remain as permanent employees.

Atlanta architects Perkins+Will have drawn up plans to renovate the 900-seat club, and Schoen said renovations, at a cost of $1 million, would take place next year, between May and August. “The goal of the purchase and partnership is to give a fresh face to the venue, both physically and operationally,” he said in a release.

The changes at the Variety will include more restrooms, a slightly higher seating capacity, improvements to the balcony and a more efficient bar. Agon will also lower the “dancing” area in front of the stage, to allow seated patrons to see over the standing-room crowds.

“We’re going to maintain standards in the room, and focus on production and having great shows,” Harris said.

Agon, which also owns two minor-league baseball teams, has secured a 20-year lease on the Variety Playhouse building, with an option to renew for longer, Schoen said.

Schoen said Scott Orvold, who books shows at the Georgia Theatre, will work with Harris to increase the number of shows at the Variety. Harris said Orvold has expertise in electronic dance music and other areas that complement Harris’ own connections in folk, jazz and world music. “He’s got a feel for what 23-year-olds like to listen to.”

Harris said he will probably continue producing music events in Atlanta, after his association with the Variety is over.

He added that though he wasn’t looking to sell the business, the offer from Agon, for an undisclosed amount, was a good one.

“All good things must come to an end,” he said.

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