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Aztec Theatre Is Reborn With a Little Help From Sam

After years of disuse, the vintage 1926 Aztec Theater fronting St. Mary’s and Commerce Streets downtown, has now been re-imagined and completely re-modeled. But it almost didn’t happen that way.

“This was almost condemned, and this building almost came down and became a hotel,” said Sam Panchevre of popular restaurant and live music venue Sam’s Burger Joint fame. He describes what he's done at the Aztec.

"It’s an adaptive re-use of old architecture," he said.

Panchevre’s adaptive re-use is to turn it into an entertainment venue, featuring a wide variety of live music. To do so they tore out the first level theater seats, replacing them with three levels of wood floor and railing facing the stage. The balcony level retained its seats for those who don’t want to stand. Just outside the theater area, an imposing Aztec-themed foyer has a wooden dance floor, Mayan Revival columns and bars. Panchevre describes what's left, and the way it's to be used.

"For standing to seating to tables, for shows, conference, for live music -- so by doing all that we’re able to attract more business," Panchevre said.

Aztec Theater PR Director Cliff Puchalski details how they're targeting use of the facility.

“We’re going to get 1,700-1,800 people in here. And actually we think that fits a nice niche in San Antonio," Puchalski said.

Sam’s Burger Joint has a 500-person limit, so at the Aztec they’re looking to fit more than three times that many, and in a very memorable venue. Panchevre reflects on his hopes for the Aztec.

"I want the fan experience to be super, super excited," he said. "And I want the bands to feel like they are playing in a historic area."  

Historic it is. Tomorrow I speak with the group credited with saving the Aztec from the wrecking ball, the San Antonio Conservation Society.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii