The historic Riviera Theater on King Street has been converted into a performance space, bringing regional and national acts to local audiences | Photos by Reese Moore

The once-dormant Riviera Theater is now in full swing as an entertainment venue, welcoming a slew of popular entertainers this year — Jewel in March, The Wallflowers in April, Ann Wilson and Colbie Caillat in June, Christopher Cross and Chris Isaak in August.

The Riviera, a theater on lower King Street built in 1938, hasn’t been an entertainment space since 1977 when it stopped operating as a movie theater. It was used as a conference space in the 1990s up until the building changed ownership in 2021.

Operations Manager Aaron Rowland hears the same thing about the theater all the time: “I’ve lived in Charleston my whole life and never been in there.” 

Now, it’s lined up with performances through the end of year. 

The process of revitalizing the Riviera was not just a business decision, Rowland said, but also a passion project done in the name of rejuvenating a piece of Charleston history. Rowland works with Beemok Hospitality Collection, which took over management of the Riviera after its billionaire owner Ben Navarro acquired The Charleston Place last year. The venue has partnered with Live Nation for its booking. 

“We wanted to hit the ground quickly and make an impactful splash in the community to reactivate as part of King Street,” Rowland said. “And we needed a big partner that has some clout that can get artists that typically wouldn’t play here. Live Nation has helped us get some really big names.”

An intimate experience

Photo by Reese Moore

The ballroom where shows take place is geared toward an intimate experience for both the performer and concertgoer, whether it be a variety, comedy or music show, Rowland said. The ballroom holds about 520 people between the seating and VIP tables, and the capacity will go up to 685 for two November concerts by The Revivalists. Some featured artists have tweaked their sets to be a “songwriter in the round” style in which they can share stories with the audience, while The Revivalists shows will be all-out parties. 

Rowland said the venue eventually will work with local breweries, wine shops and restaurants to enhance the venue’s pre-show rooftop bar experience with local pop-ups. The Riviera team is currently putting together a dinner and show package with Charleston Grill.

And while the 2022 show schedule doesn’t feature a local act, the Riviera team is considering curating a locals-only night to foster the Charleston music scene and give lesser-known acts some exposure. 

The Riviera is inherently nostalgic, evoking an old school feel with its retro style that reminds you of simpler times, and it’s that sense of warmth that translates into Rowland’s vision for the place. 

“For Christopher Cross, one couple had driven from six hours away,” he said. “They had his lyrics engraved on their wedding bands. I got them set up with a special table. You can’t do that in a concert with thousands of people, but that sense of hospitality, that’s what we’re trying to create here.”

Here’s a rundown of the remaining shows in 2022, which all start at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m:

  • Collective Soul and Switchfoot – Sept. 9 
  • Father John Misty – Sept. 19
  • Jimmie Vaughan – Sept. 23
  • Andy McKee – Sept. 26
  • David Cook – Oct. 1
  • David Nail’s Story to Tell Tour with Tyler Braden – Oct. 8
  • Tip Jars to Chart Toppers: A Taste of Nashville – Oct. 9
  • Amos Lee – Oct. 17
  • And That’s Why We Drink: Here For The Boos Tour – Oct. 29 
  • The Revivalists – Nov. 1 and 2
  • Mat Kearney – Nov. 3
  • Joe Pera: Fall Standup Tour – Nov. 20 
  • Phil Vassar – Dec. 16
  • Chris Distefano: Right Intention, Wrong Move – Dec. 17

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