The Sets in Tempe Closes for Business

It saddens us to report this, but Tempe music venue The Sets has gone belly up after five years. As in closed. Finito. The big goodbye.

The multi-room bar and nightclub shut its doors permanently on Sunday night following a local battle of the bands showcase.

But as startled as we were to learn about the closure, it pales in comparison to the shock felt by the employees of the Sets, who told us they weren't informed of the decision until this past weekend and that it "came outta the blue."

Kim LaRowe, who helped manage the Sets and assisted with booking shows, says she was left "pretty speechless" when she heard the news.

"Pretty much everyone was taken by surprise," Larowe says. "I've been feeling sick over the situation ever since. This is just a big shit sandwich for everybody involved [with the Sets]. Not just for the people who lost their jobs, but also for all the bands who have been booked to play here."

According to rumors on Twitter, the closing was due to a financial crunch and the venue will now be used to house an expansion by an adjacent LA Fitness location. We spoke briefly with Scott Ford, general manger of The Sets, who declined to comment other than stating, "It was just the economy and we just didn't make it."

Larowe feels the closure of the Sets is a real loss to the Valley's music scene. She confirms that there were more than 20 different gigs booked for the Sets over the coming months and she's been spending the past few days working with promoters to find new locations for each show. Phoenix's indie pro-wrestling league Impact Zone Wrestling -- which held bi-weekly shows at the bar -- has also been left homeless by the closure. (Chris McClennan, one of the IZW's promoters, says she's currently attempting to secure a new location).

The Sets opened in 2004 after its original owner Harry Hekmatian converted his old pool hall (a.k.a. Pinkie's) into a sports bar and music venue in response to Tempe's citywide smoking ban from earlier this decade. Since then, it's hosted a wide range of hard rock, punk, and industiral shows (including such names as TSOL, Voltaire, KMFDM, Helmet, and JFA).

Not only did the joint survive the smoking ban, it also overcame a major hassle in 2006 when a resident from the surrounding neighborhood complained to city officials over possible noise ordinance violations. (Such complaints were ultimately dismissed).

"You know what's crazy, the guy in that backyard couldn't close down the Sets, but the economy sure could," Larowe says. "I've worked here for three years and this is the worst freaking end possible. If'd had any idea this was gonna happened I woulda told people to have their shows elesewhere."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.