The proprietors of Hollywood Alley dropped an atomic bombshell on Facebook Thursday afternoon, and its devastating news: The venerated Mesa rock bar will be closing for business on July 31, just shy of its 25th anniversary.
It would be safe to say that the announcement was a massive shock to countless in the metro Phoenix music scene who have been both patrons and performers at the Alley -- which has hosted literally thousands of bands for the past quarter-century -- particularly since plans were afoot for a three-day party next month celebrating the occasion.
Even some of the longtime staff members were caught off guard by the announcement of the closure of the iconic venue, which was the longest-running rock bar in the Valley.
Announcements were made by on both Hollywood Alley's main Facebook site and -- ironically enough -- the event page for the 25th anniversary event, which has been moved up to next weekend. The latter message was short and to the point.
Apologies, everyone. We are closing July 31st. We will have to celebrate the 25th Anniversary sometime before we close. Any bands scheduled to play this party can contact Will at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss performing the last weekend in July. We might have a few slots open.
According to longtime Hollywood Alley employee Will Tynor, the decision by co-owners Ross Wincek and his grandmother Rachel Hrutkay to close related to the venue's bottom line and was made earlier this week after meeting with their accountant and others involved behind the scenes. (Tynor and the rest of the staff were informed of the news today.)
While money crunches have afflicted Hollywood Alley more than a few times since it was opened by the Wincek clan in 1988, the family members were able to endure or scrape by such choppy waters (including a near-closure in 2006). Tynor says this time, however, they decided to call it quits.
"They just crunched the numbers, and I think where every [other] time they decided to give it another go for another six months, they finally made the decision to pull the plug," Tynor says.
There also were concerns that Hollywood Alley might be in jeopardy of closing after Wincek, who was uninsured at the time, suffered a stoke in 2012 and faced substantial medical expenses. A massive benefit was organized later that year to help the co-owner out. Reportedly, he's since recovered greatly since then. Tynor, however, says that the situation didn't play much of a role in the decision to close the venue.
It is unknown whether the venue will be sold.
While Hollywood Alley's influence may have waned in the past few years, it's still considered one of the Phoenix music scene's more legendary spots, with a storied history and impossibly long list of shows by bands and musicians across every genre imaginable.
We summed up its sizable history in 2009 thusly:
It's hard imagining a Valley without Hollywood Alley, as it's become a mainstay of the music scene while other establishments have come and gone. It's no surprise, considering the place has all the ingredients that make any rock club great: dim lighting, kitschy décor, black leather booths, and an ample stage that's hosted shows almost every night of the week for the past two decades.
Plenty of nationally known artists have performed at the Alley, running the gamut from spoken word/art rock chanteuse Lydia Lunch to psychedelic indie rock band The Apples in Stereo. (Public Enemy even stopped by for an impromptu show one evening in 2007 after getting booted from the Marquee Theatre). More importantly, however, the joint has served as a launching pad and stomping ground for some of the biggest bands in Valley history.
Needless to say, the reaction to Hollywood Alley's closure has been substantial. We reached out to Robert "Fun Bobby" Birmingham, a longtime bartender/booker at the venue for 17 years, told us the following over Facebook.
"Hollywood Alley was the best place in the world. So many great friends were made there, so many great bands played there and plenty of mischief was had by me and our gang there. I am so very honored to have been a part of it," Birmingham wrote.
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He also added: "Does anyone have $300,000 I can have? I wanna buy something."