The club extends to a rooftop space that overlooks Peachtree Street. (Caleb Holland / With Agency)
Marquee Club presented by Lexus at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre marks successful first year
Shelling out $10 million to create the Marquee Club presented by Lexus was an anomaly for Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, which had not seen a capital outlay of this amount since the theater was built in 1929.
“That was significant for us,” said Adina Erwin, Fox Theatre’s vice president and chief operating officer. “We’ve done capital improvements of $1 million to $1.5 million over time, but a construction process like this had never been done here before.”
With the city’s bevy of entertainment spaces — including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, not 2 years old; newly renovated State Farm Arena; Cobb Energy Center; and the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, which opened last year — it can be difficult for a venue in this neck of the woods to set itself apart.
“We’re in a very competitive market with terrific facilities and new ones coming online,” said Allan Vella, Fox Theatre’s CEO and vice president. “We couldn’t let the architecture of our building do all the heavy lifting.”
Originally designed as part of a Shrine Temple when it was built, the theater was described at the time of its opening as having “a picturesque and almost disturbing grandeur beyond imagination.” Its architecture is heavily influenced by Spain’s Alhambra and Egypt’s Temple of Karnak in its ornateness. This is marked by soaring domes, minarets and sweeping archways on the interior and trompe l’oeil art creating realistic optical illusions on its exterior.
The goal of the club project was to elevate the guest experience at the Fox, adding a premium asset that had never existed at the venue.
“The project was driven around wanting to meet guest needs on a different level and maintain our competitive edge in a market saturated with entertainment venues,” Erwin said. “This was a substantial decision on the part of our board and management from a financial and strategic perspective.”
The Fox offers access to the club through a variety of seasonlong and single-event options.
A year later, it’s evident that the nonprofit organization’s self-funded project, which transformed a corner of the theater formerly rented to a jazz club into a premium space, is a success.
“We knew we’d have to put capital dollars into the space to get a new tenant, so we decided why don’t we (use the space) as part of our business model instead,” Erwin said.
The conversation began about five years ago, construction started in January 2017 and the Marquee Club opened in May 2018.
Designing the space while aligning the décor and the building’s historic fabric was challenging, as it was important not to affect the venue’s historic landmark status.
It was decided that the 14,000-square-foot Marquee Club would be built in the theater’s northeast corner and inside the existing building so it didn’t disturb external walls. There is main-level access to the club from both the theater’s main building entrance and the outside. In addition to seating, this area contains a bar and restrooms. The club’s mezzanine level has a bar and overlooks the main level, given a cozier feel by its lower ceilings. A top level has three areas—an indoor rooftop location with a bar that’s connected to one of the theater’s ballrooms, an open rooftop space overlooking Peachtree Street that is fully furnished with a bar and fire/water feature, and another rooftop space adjacent to both areas that’s covered with a pergola and open on the side. This section includes seating, a bar and restrooms. With all levels open, the club accommodates up to 500, or 300 without the rooftop.
Each club area has its own design, although all are cohesive and complement the theater’s Moroccan/Egyptian motif. Rich colors are combined with luxurious materials, including leather, satin and wool. Seating is a mix of sofas, chairs, tables, banquettes and high tops.
“It was a puzzle to put together the elements between the bars, lounges, indoor and outdoor spaces,” said Karen Gravel, principal at Atlanta’s Lord Aeck Sargent, a Katerra Company, the club’s architect and designer. “The club needed to be as accessible as possible but still maintain the historic fabric around the space.”
She admitted it was fairly complicated organizing the club spatially, but using cues from the existing building helped tie it all together.
“There’s an Arabian Nights theme in the theater’s main house, which we used in the club, yet this is reinterpreted in a modern way so it’s not repeated,” Gravel said. “The custom carpet has a radiating pattern, and we used studded leather and fabrics exclusive to the space. Other elements include a Far East mural, South American tile, Italian cut marble and Venetian plaster.”
The club has mezze tables and action stations for buffet-style food service. Dishes vary, depending on the season and event, but generally artisanal meats and cheeses, vegetables, sides and desserts are available. Past offerings have included Tomahawk beef, potatoes, salmon, Chilean sea bass, shrimp, lobster tail and crab claws.
“We’ve created a food identity with a chef, sous chef and beverage manager for custom drinks,” Vella said. “The club has a staff of about 20.”
On the heels of positive guest feedback, the club will continue crafting food and beverage experiences as well as more engagement opportunities for its guests.
“It’s the club’s first-year anniversary, and our overall reasons for doing it have been fulfilled and then some,” Erwin said. “I’d compare the club to getting a new car. It has a lot of bells and whistles, and a year later we’re still exploring what it can do.”