LA Bootleg Theater closes after COVID, property issues
“The past few days have been overwhelming,” talent buyer Kyle Wilkerson said on Tuesday, a day after the announcement of the definitive closure of the famous Bootleg Theater in Historic Filipinotown after more than a year of closure linked to COVID-19. . “It all happened so suddenly. “
Wilkerson, 36, probably could have said this at many times over the past 16 months, which have seen the start of the pandemic, concert halls shutting down and a relentless and still unresolved quest for venues to secure the federal aid due to them since December.
But news of the demise of the two-decade-old music and performance space still casts an unexpected veil on the reopening of nightlife and cultural venues in Los Angeles. The venue joined the Satellite, Blue Whale and Hi-Hat on the list of small independent clubs that, for various reasons, did not survive the pandemic. But the fact that this happened during reopening week seemed to sharpen the spur for local music fans.
Jason and Alicia Adams, who had owned the club since 1999, said in a social media post: “Before the pandemic struck, we were at a stalemate of irreconcilable differences with the partner with whom we originally purchased the property in. 1999, despite our serious efforts. to buy our partner’s share in real estate. The crash of a COVID shutdown has made the situation even more untenable for us. After resisting many offers to sell the Bootleg to conglomerates like Live Nation, we were able to keep the little engine that could work. It is a punch to us that our ultimate demise was an inside job. “
The new owners – still anonymous for now – reportedly intend to keep it as a sort of art venue. Reached by phone Tuesday, Wilkerson (who also books shows at venues like Highland Park Ebell, the Pico Union Project, and the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles) explained what the Bootleg did and how local independent music could yet come back from its worst year in generations.
It must be really disappointing to see the place shut down as the state reopens more fully. What happened?
Wilkerson: The owners had a silent partner, and there was a lot of internal feud even before the pandemic. Then when it hit the third owner wanted to leave while Jason and Alicia wanted to stay with the business. But the third owner retained them and forced them to put the building up for sale. They did it halfway through the pandemic and it didn’t sell for a while, so we were hoping to get over it, but at the last minute two people came in and bought it and forced the sale. Ultimately, it was the dissolution of the partnership that did. The pandemic has obviously exacerbated it, and it could have been different otherwise.
He took everyone by surprise, artists and patrons. We have been witnessing this outpouring of affection for 48 hours. It’s still very raw. Everyone wanted closure but with the pandemic we couldn’t even have one last show.
The venue has been around for decades and really meant something to fans. What will be lost when space darkens?
So many people have said that they have met their best friend, wife or husband here. It was beyond a place or a bar, one of those places that was an integral part of people’s stories about their lives. It is difficult to reproduce.
It is one of the many independent venues that have closed over the past year. How will the local live landscape change once the shows get back fuller?
This industry always has its ups and downs. There will be new places that will appear. There might be a lull for a few years, and there might be more that fall or be bought out by Live Nation, but there will be a whole new generation of people wanting to put on their own shows. It could be a brief time when we have fewer sites than in 2019.
So many places are angry that the Save Our Stages (SVOG) grants have been so slow to roll out. Would it have made a difference to you?
We got a PPP loan but we didn’t get SVOG, and I don’t know of anyone else who did. It is so disheartening. The bill was passed last year. We all expected to have that money now and to be able to start operating again and rehire. If everyone has that money tomorrow, it’s still hard to open in two weeks. I just hope he comes soon.
What shows are you going to take with you as great achievements while you were at Bootleg?
My most memorable show will probably be the Secret Show with Conor Oberst and Jonathan Wilson, Gillian Welch and Jim James. Conor asked me who to wear for that blank date in July 2015. Phoebe Bridgers was my new favorite singer-songwriter, so I thought I’d put her on the bill, and he was blown away, and it rekindled their friendship from there. Moses Sumney’s residence began weeks before the pandemic; it was the last show at the theater. Moses took over all the space, and it was just transcendent to see. I’ll never forget that, because her record was all about isolation, and I often think of how amazing it was to shut down the Bootleg, whether we know it or not.