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New blood at State offers 'better mouse trap'

State Theatre owner Lane Rosen, left, has formed a business partnership with long-time friends Sean Hatcher, center, and Chris Hayes, right.

State Theatre owner Lane Rosen, left, has formed a business partnership with long-time friends Sean Hatcher, center, and Chris Hayes, right.

Carlton Fletcher

carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com

ALBANY — While the rest of the Good Life City was ringing out the old at the start of the New Year, downtown State Theatre owner Lane Rosen was in the final stages of ringing in the new.

Talked out of closing the venerable theater after a nine-year run by friends and fellow music lovers willing to put their money where their mouths were, Rosen is sprucing up the 313 Pine Ave. venue, preparing for a fresh influx of enthusiasm from new partners Chris Hayes and Sean Hatcher.

“Most small businesses fail to last past a second year,” Rosen said. “We’d managed to keep the State going for nine years, and I had plenty of good memories so I decided it was time to shut the door. I called Chris (Hayes) to ask him if his band (Another Alien Astronaut) wanted to be a part of the last show at the theater, and he told me to hold on a minute.”

Hayes picks up the story.

“Lane and I had known each other since we were ‘apartment kids’ together at around 3 years old,” the residential appraiser/musician said. “I knew he’d had a tough time with his health issues (cancer), but I didn’t think he really wanted to close the doors of the State.

“When he first did this nine years ago, he talked with me about getting involved, but I had too many irons in the fire at the time. I’ve regretted it ever since. When he started talking about a final show, I said ‘let’s talk about this for a while.’”

Rosen and Hayes started discussing ways to restore the State’s reputation as one of the premiere musical venues in the region, and Hatcher — who has spun music at events around the city as DJ Billy Ocean for the past 15 years — was a natural choice to bring into the mix.

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D’town Arts Coalition member Kris Letlow hangs a painting by Charlene Maldonado in the lobby of the State Theatre Wednesday.

“When Chris got this idea (about becoming a part of the State’s management team), he contacted a few people that he thought would be interested,” Hatcher, a Procter & Gamble employee, said. “I think I was the first one to get back with him. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and Chris created a bridge that would allow him, Lane and me to work together.”

Rosen, who also manages rental property in the city, said there was another reason for getting Hatcher involved.

“Sean’s the bacon in the PBJ sandwich,” the State owner said. “He’s the kind of guy who’s going to bring different ideas to the table. He’s going to go out and find things that the rest of us might not think of.”

Case in point is the State’s grand re-opening event scheduled Jan. 26: “Rumble in the Theater.” The family event will feature wrestling matches that include a “Loser Must Eat Dog Food” showdown between “Pretty” Prince Murphy and Albany’s Dab Savage, and a last-man-standing grudge match between Big Daddy Osborne and Old School Outlaw Chris Nelms.

Other regional wrestlers featured in the matches, which offers tickets at $8 for adults and $5 for kids, include Drew Golden, Jayson Falcone, Johnny Romano, Scott Mitchells, Bam Stone, Dirty Dave Tate and chairshot reality host Justin Labar.

“I think the way you find the entertainment that fits in any particular area is to shake the bushes,” Hatcher said. “Between the three of us, we should have three separate networks that, when combined, will offer all kinds of exciting opportunities at the State.”

Rosen, who admits that he’d grown jaded by the many (often illegally operated) events centers that sprung up in the city, said he’s optimistic about the State’s future for more than just the fact he now has two well-known partners sharing in the management duties. He said Albany officials’ efforts to curtail illegally operated entertainment operations in the city have proven to be more than just talk.

“I’ve met with the police chief and the fire marshall, and they’ve taken action to clean up some of the shadier businesses that were hurting legitimate businesses like ours,” Rosen said. “I had reached my wit’s end, but I see that law enforcement officials are now taking action. If the city follows through with police recommendations, I’ll be very excited.”

The new-look State triumvirate has already started making improvements on the facility, bringing in members of the D’town Arts Coalition to create an ever-changing look in the lobby area. And there are plans for any number of fresh events: an Ultimate Band Fight, an ‘80s Ladies Night, various musical showcases.

There’s even a new pricing structure that will cut costs by 67 percent for some events.

“It’s a chiche, but cliches become cliches because they’re true: If you build a better mouse trap, people will beat a path to your door,” Hayes said. “There are other places around here to watch live music, and there are plenty of places to get a drink or a beer. But there’s no other place like the State.

“There’s not another experience like this in Albany. This is the only place where you can get this ambiance. We have built a better mouse trap.”