Just four months after it opened, Tempe's Venue 104 is closing its doors.
The combination coffee house, art gallery, music venue and theater will finish out its final play, Tape by Stephen Belber, on December 17. A final musical blowout is currently in the works with locals Executives, Hometown Letdown and more.
There were many factors that led owner Michael Peck to decide close up shop. Initially, the contractor ran over budget, giving Peck a very small opening balance to work with. The almost simultaneous opening of Crescent Ballroom certainly hurt business, Peck says, both in terms of customers and being able to book national acts, but the main problem runs deeper than that.
"I would be lying to you if it wasn't just as simple as the support for the local art scene and local music scene are just not what they should be," Peck says.
Peck, former co-owner of Chyro Arts and a Valley theater promoter for 12 years, considers himself a theater veteran of sorts, and, after pouring nearly a $250,000 into Venue 104, he's just not sure his idea can work in Phoenix.
While there has been a push in recent years to drum up "culture" in the Valley, Peck says the people who complain about the lack of theater, music and arts in Phoenix are the same people perpetuating the problem.
"I don't buy the 'economy sucks' argument," he says. "It's because the same people who say culture is lacking in this town are perfectly content Facebooking for four hours straight, or playing Farmville, or Angry Birds, or going and dropping 25 bucks to go to a movie, or going out every Friday and Saturday night and dropping 40 or 50 bucks to get wasted. I don't buy that the economy is shitty."
Peck has a decision to make. At the moment, he plans to get a 9-5 job. Then, he can choose to continue to push to see his dream realized here, give up all together or move to a city where local venues flourish.
"At some point you can make a choice to support local," Peck says. "You make the choice to not go through the Starbucks drive-through, but walk up to a really cool indie coffee shop and support it. You make the choice to not to go Harkins and see the next Twilight installment, but to go see some level of alternative, emerging theater."
He still has hopes that the local music and arts scene will turn itself around, but he's not banking on it anymore. At this point, Peck considers this the end of his road in attempting to own a small arts space in Phoenix.
"Ultimately, it's a disappointment of a dream," he says.
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