Music News

Phoenix Music Venue The Pressroom Shut Down by State After Packed Concert

The exterior of The Pressroom in downtown Phoenix.
The exterior of The Pressroom in downtown Phoenix. Google Maps

Downtown Phoenix music venue The Pressroom has been shut down by the state for failing to follow COVID-19 safety protocols during a recent hip-hop show packed with people.

On Wednesday, Arizona Department of Health Services officials ordered the 1,000-person capacity concert hall located on Madison Street near Fourth Avenue to close indefinitely after “jeopardizing the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” The Pressroom also failed to submit an attestation with ADHS stating its management and staff would follow coronavirus mitigation guidelines.

The venue’s liquor license was also suspended indefinitely by the state in conjunction with the closure order.

The move came days after a gig by Chicago-based rapper Polo G at The Pressroom on January 16 was reportedly attended by more than 100 people. Videos posted to Snapchat and other social media platforms, which have since been deleted, showed a large crowd of people, many of whom weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Both precautions required under emergency measures issued by the ADHS last summer allowing bars and other businesses with a liquor license to operate during the pandemic.

Steve Elliott, an ADHS spokesperson, said in an email that social media videos of the Polo G concert caused the closure order.

(A performance by rapper Sada Baby took place at The Pressroom the night prior on January 15, although ADHS officials didn't say if it factored into their order. An Instagram video of that concert showed attendees, some wearing masks, in close proximity to each other.)

ADHS officials have ordered nearly a dozen Arizona bars to close for similar safety violations since the emergency measures were put in place last August. This is the first time a music venue has been shut down by the department.

Elliott told the Arizona Republic that concerts or other public gatherings with more than 50 people must obtain approval from city officials and utilize safety measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. According to the Republic, the Pressroom did neither of those things with the Polo G show and other recent concerts at the venue.

The Pressroom is owned by local businessman Narender Raju, who also operates Tempe’s Aura Nightclub. He hasn't responded to repeated requests by local media for comment on the matter. (Phoenix New Times was also unable to reach Raju or venue management.)

click to enlarge A now-deleted image posted to The Pressroom's Facebook on Wednesday. - THE PRESSROOM'S FACEBOOK
A now-deleted image posted to The Pressroom's Facebook on Wednesday.
The Pressroom's Facebook
An image posted to the Pressroom's Facebook on Wednesday night, which was deleted the following day, stated all upcoming events at the venue have been postponed for the time being “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

A few upcoming concerts were scheduled to take place at The Pressroom, including shows by metalcore act We Came As Romans (on March 1) and art-rock band Palaye Royale (on July 27). Promoters for either concert haven’t announced if the shows will be moved to new venues as of Thursday.

Local event producer Marc Auger announced via Facebook on Wednesday he'd canceled the upcoming “Invite Only” party at the venue, which was scheduled for January 30, after receiving a phone call from the venue’s staff. In a comment to the post, Auger estimates he’ll lose approximately $50,000 because of the cancellation.

Per ADHS guidelines, The Pressroom won’t be allowed to reopen until it receives permission from department officials, agrees to follow COVID-19 protocols, and undergo a phased reopening process with stricter regulations.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.