Jonathan Mark at the church off Main Street.
Hooters Girls and the music of Foreigner blasting from a sound system are not what you’d expect to find in the former home of a Baptist church just off Main Street downtown on Rossville Avenue. But the hip new high priest of what’s become known simply as The Church on Main Street has a different flock in mind for the old abbey.
“This place is going to rock,” says Jonathan Mark, the Boston-bred musician, concert producer, consultant and of late, the impresario behind the unnamed entertainment complex set to shake loose the gothic foundation of the Southside sanctuary.
On a recent weekday afternoon following a photo shoot (Mark’s partner, photographer Robert Morris, uses the space as a studio and has just finished photographing a gaggle of Atlanta Hooters Girls), Mark is stalking the floor of the former church with the excitement of Jack Nicholson (to whom he bears more than a passing resemblance) at a Lakers’ game, pointing out the space’s unique ambiance and reeling off a Who’s Who of Classic Rock list of potential performers.
Mark is the latest entrepreneur set on expanding Chattanooga’s underserved concert-going audience with a new venue he hopes will attract the a distinctly different crowd from his neighbors down the street at Track 29. “I love Track 29,” he says, “but this is going to be a completely different experience.”
“Experience” is key to Mark’s plans.
“This is not a club,” he says emphatically. “We’re creating an entertainment experience unlike anything Chattanooga has seen.”
At least once a month when the venue opens early next year, Mark expects to bring such classic rock icons as Peter Frampton, Greg Lake and Supertramp to the intimate confines of the historic temple, which dates to 1903. He also hopes to book local bands to open for the legends and will rent the space for private parties and weddings.
For top-dollar tickets, fans will be treated to a catered dinner, open bar and the opportunity to hang out with rock royalty before the stars turn in a private concert. The space will house a state-of-the-art sound system and feature a VIP loft. Mark likens the expected experience to that of booking a popular musician to play your house party.
“How often do you get to party with Peter Frampton?” Mark asks.