Images by Jeff Sampson Photography

When you walk through the open warehouse doors and take a first glance inside Icon Lounge in downtown Sioux Falls, it’s like you’re not in South Dakota at all. You’re automatically transported into a sexy and sophisticated nightclub that creates the atmosphere you can only get in places like Los Angeles and New York.

And it’s all thanks to the State Theatre.

Wait, what?

To explain, the majority of the partners at Icon Lounge also are on the Board of Directors to restore the beloved State Theatre (a.k.a. The Last Jewel in the Crown of Historic Downtown).

“As we’ve progressed on [the State Theatre], we’ve been talking about really trying to make that project very different than just opening up an old movie theater,” James Jacobson explained.

Jacobson, who wears many hats as president and partner at various enterprises such as The Market on Phillips and at First Financial Service Center, applied for a liquor license as one idea to differentiate. Even though the theater wouldn’t be ready, there had been a recent story about a four to five-year wait for  that type of license because the list was ever-growing.

“I thought, well, okay… We probably need to get our name on the list, but the State Theatre wasn’t anywhere prepared to do that themselves, so I put it under one of my company names thinking we had four to five years before it came up,” said Jacobson. 

To his surprise, by August 2011 he received a phone call from the City of Sioux Falls. “‘They said, ‘Congratulations, you won! You’ve got the liquor license, your name is up!’” recalled Jacobson with a laugh.

At that point he wasn’t sure what to do. The State Theatre was still years away from being close to finished and a liquor license is a hot commodity. The cost of one through the city is $193,000 and it set by population.

“You can also buy them on the market,” said Jacobson. “You can do a private deal where you literally transfer the license, so there’s a street value to licenses and right now in Sioux Falls it’s approximately $250,000.”

What could he do with it until the theater would open its doors?

“My thought at that time was still trying to find some way to utilize it and pay for it while the State Theatre is getting renovated,” Jacobson explained.

He approached restaurants that only held a wine and beer license to discuss giving them a liquor license until the project was ready. They politely declined, not wanting to only have it temporarily.

“That’s the thing, once you have a liquor license, you never want to give it up,” said Jacobson.

Cue State Theatre board member and former executive of Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc., Dan Statema. 

To read the rest of this article, pick up the May issue of 605 today! 

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