Port Townsend clubs rev up offerings after Upstage closure
Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Caution tape and whited-out sign adorn the exterior of the Upstage in Port Townsend these days.
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“It was an incredible place,” said Kris Nelson, who has presented live music in two of her restaurants, Sirens Pub, 823 Water St., and Alchemy, 842 Washington St.
“It was dinner theater where you could sit and eat and watch the performance, and there were a lot of incredible blues and jazz bands that you couldn't see anywhere else around here,” added Nelson, also Port Townsend's deputy mayor.
The Upstage closed for repairs in June for what was expected to be three weeks, but landlord Dave Peterson discovered water damage for which he held club owner Mark Cole responsible.
An inability to fix the floors led to the club's permanent closure, with Cole filing a breach-of-contract action against Peterson for breaking his lease.
Peterson countered that there was no long-term lease and evicted Cole.
Peterson's attorney, Malcolm Harris, is awaiting a response from Peggy Ann Bierbaum, who is representing Cole.
“Unless we can work this out, we will be going to trial,” Harris said Tuesday, adding that it would be at least eight months before a judge hears the case.
While its location at 923 Washington St. was considered by many to be ideal, the Upstage will not reopen there, Cole said.
“I could do a lot with that location, but not as long as David is the owner,” Cole said. “He has poisoned that space.”
Since the Upstage closed, Cole has presented shows at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St., and the Highway 20 Road House, 2152 Sims Way, fulfilling past performance contracts and keeping the Upstage name alive.
He said he “has some possibilities” for a new space.
Despite the Upstage's street address, it was accessible through an alley at the end of Tyler Street.
A former neighbor, the Cellar Door at 940 Water St., attempted to fill some of the void with Tuesday night musical performances, which for the first two weeks met the club's 49-person capacity.
The space is as much for the musicians as the public, club owner Dominic Svornich said.
“Local musicians just want a place where they can come out and see each other and play some music,” Svornich said.
There is no cover charge, and the musician's pay is somewhat less than what they would expect for a weekend gig, Svornich said, but he's had no problem booking 10 weeks' worth of shows.
“We'll see what happens,” he said. “Maybe by then, Mark will have opened a new place.”
Nelson said none of her restaurants could replace the Upstage.
“Something like the Upstage is definitely needed in this town,” she said.
“But I hope no one else comes in and opens a place while Mark is still figuring out what to do.”
The Uptown Pub and Grill, 1016 Lawrence St., hasn't expanded its live music offerings beyond Friday and Saturday due to lease restrictions but has attracted a wider variety of musicians for its Tuesday night open mic, according to music booker Nina Law.
“We are seeing a lot of new faces,” said Law, who managed the Water Street Brewery before it closed in 2010.
“We've lost so many venues and have less options, so it's nice to see people embracing good local music.
“We have some superior local musicians here, but they don't have a lot of places to play,” she said.
Jack Reid, who was master of ceremonies at the Upstage's popular Monday open mic, moved the event to the Highway 20 Road House, where it has drawing a good crowd.
“The sound is excellent, and the food is good, but it's sad that we are no longer downtown,” Reid said.
Of the Upstage, he said, “It was part of the community, and we had local music every night while it also provided the opportunity to get the big-name traveling shows.”
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: September 10. 2013 6:17PM