August 7, 2007
Save the Sweetwater!!
Shit, there is a crisis a-goin' on in Mill Valley. The Sweetwater is slated to close at the end of the month and Village Music is closing in Sept. Frickin' A. These two historic institutions need to be saved!!!
Mill Valley's Sweetwater to close
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched:08/04/2007 11:05:56 PM PDT
After more than 30 years in Mill Valley, Sweetwater, the rock club that became a Marin County cultural institution, has been told to close by the end of the month.
Sweetwater owners Thom and Becky Steere have been given a 30-day notice by their landlord to vacate the landmark Throckmorton Avenue nightspot, where greats like Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and other rock stars have performed over the past three decades.
The building will undergo major improvements, requiring rent increases that the Steeres cannot afford.
Mill Valley Mayor Chris Raker, who was surprised to hear of the closure, called the news upsetting.
"I'm extremely distressed to hear it. It's a major loss to the community. While I welcome the improvements to the building, I wish some accommodation could have been made to allow Sweetwater to stay."
In an emotional meeting Saturday morning, the Steeres gave their dozen employees the news. "There were lots of tears," an upset Becky Steere said, her voice cracking. "We're a family. This is our life. We're all devoted to Sweetwater. We're feeling deep sadness and sorrow right now. It's heartbreaking."
The Steeres say they've been looking for a new home for Sweetwater, but it will be impossible to re-create its living-room-like ambience, to replace its barnwood walls decorated with memorabilia and photos of musicians who have played there.
"How do you move an institution?" Becky Steere asked. "You can't carry away the memories of all the musicians who have performed here, the magic that's been on that stage. If you move an institution like Sweetwater, you lose the soul of the place."
The Steeres, who saved the club when they took it over from previous owner Jeanie Patterson in 1998, clashed with their landlord in 2004 over rent increases and other issues.
They threatened to leave during those negotiations, but managed to work out a month-to-month lease.
But now they've been told to be out by Sept. 1, at the latest.
"We've had this scene before, but this time it's real," Becky Steere said. "Unless some miracle happens, this is the end."
The Sweetwater building at 153 Throckmorton Ave. is owned by the Aversa family, longtime proprietors of adjacent La Ginestra restaurant.
The Aversas are planning "major repairs" that will require the building to be vacant "for an unknown but extended period," according to a statement signed by the Steeres and by Fabio Aversa for his family.
"Once these repairs are completed, the intent is to re-rent the space, but the increase in rent to offset the improvements will make it impossible for Sweetwater to reoccupy the space," the statement said. "It also makes little sense for Sweetwater to move and then move again, perhaps months later."
The Aversas say they plan to tear back interior walls to make sure the building meets seismic safety standards and to improve the plumbing and electrical systems.
"While there have been ups and downs in the relationship between the club and the building owner, both of us are proud of our long-term relationship and regret that it is coming to an end," the joint statement said.
Fabio Aversa did not immediately return calls for comment.
John Goddard, whose Village Music record store closes in September due to issues including escalating rents after some 40 years in Mill Valley, blasted the Aversas.
"Anyone who has eaten at La Ginestra in the past 10 years has given tacit validation to everything the Aversas have put the current and former owners of Sweetwater through," he said. "They ought to be ashamed of themselves."
The Steeres recently took over operation of the Larkspur Caf Theater, which they had hoped to run in addition to Sweetwater.
"It will never become Sweetwater," Becky Steere said. "Sweetwater is Sweetwater, a place where big-name musicians come and play, not for the money, but because of the history of this great room.
"Everyone loved the place."
Contact Paul Liberatore via e-mail at email@example.com
Posted by Mossworld at 12:48 PM