The only thing more amazing than the Yost Theater turning 105 this year is the story of how many times it has changed hands since 1912. From a vaudeville theater to a Pentecostal Church to a downtown nightclub, all the change-overs could fill an entire cover story. (Actually, it already did; see Lilledeshan Bose's "The Yost Is Ready for Its Closeup," July 28, 2011.)
Recently, Dennis Lluy and Dave Leon, who've been running the place since 2011, decided to pass the Yost torch to local catering and event planning company 24 Carrots; they will now focus on Lockout Music Rehearsal Studios, which rents out private practice spaces to bands.
Since restoring the Santa Ana theater to a taste of its former glory, Lluy and Leon began managing several other properties as well, transforming the area around the Yost into a little pocket of culture on Third Street, with a small circuit of bars including Diego's Rock-N-Roll Bar and the Underground DTSA (now Bar Ellipsis), as well as 1912, dubbed a classier extension of the Yost. But over time, it was clear that the level of resources and focus needed to make these places viable and well-maintained was more than either manager had anticipated. "It takes a lot of resources to run that place—that's just the reality," Lluy says. "[It needs] a bigger team than what we have right now to take it to the next level."
Lluy, who started the legendary Koo's Cafe back in the early 1990s, and Leon, who owns Level One Production Co., both say the process of juggling four venues just got to be too much. "The space needed patience, hyperfocus and some fresh new blood to get in there and take interest in space," Leon says. "After five years, it's time for a change."
That includes giving up managing the other bars, too; Diego's and Bar Ellipsis are now managed by Sellout Productions and White Rabbit, respectively. Each is supposed to fill its own niche in OC's music scene. "Dennis and I are grateful that we have some good operators who are doing venues that are not competing with each other and are good at what they do," Leon says.
The decision for the big change came about six months ago. As one of the Yost's primary partners who took over the programming for 1912, 24 Carrots and its director of venues, Lynn Wagoner, have done well with their vision for an upscale events area. "When we reopen [the Yost], we want to highlight a lot of the historical elements," Wagoner says. "In regards to the renovation, it's going to be a lot lighter, brighter, and some shades of white repainted floors and seating, lighting structures . . . And we're gonna tie it into the look of the 1912 area."
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The theater's programming will remain eclectic, Wagoner promises, but will cater to more 21-and-older concerts—including jazz, rock and country—and standup comedy. "The ticketing side of events and concerts is a little bit of a different beast for us, but we're tailoring the events we're doing there to a little bit different clientele," Wagoner says.
At the end of this month, the Yost will close its doors until fall 2017. Though the end of this era in the Yost's history is bittersweet for its soon-to-be-former managers, they're committed to staying as involved with the venue as they can.
"We've put our heart and soul into the place and are grateful to have some people who are really excited about it," Leon says, "and we hope to come and see the new renovations and see it from a different side."
The last event at the Yost is on May 6, Bassrush Presents Eptic and Must Die. 9 p.m., $20. 18+. For full details and tickets, click here.