After years of dark halls and quiet stages, we should know by September whether more music will pour from some of Northampton’s best-known venues.
An agreement unveiled this past week sets a firm deadline for owner Eric Suher to get his acts together. Literally.
The development puts pressure on Suher, but if he’s successful in reopening landmark rooms that helped put Northampton on the musical map, he will gain. The city will gain.
And fans of local live performances will be back in business.
Suher reached terms with the city’s License Commission that call for him to reopen five venues by Sept. 29. If he fails to deliver, and cannot sell the liquor licenses he holds, he could forfeit them.
He must do more than book a few acts now and then. The deal specifies how many shows must be offered at each of the spaces: the Calvin Theatre and Pearl Street Nightclub (four to six shows a month), the Iron Horse Music Hall (four nights per week), the Basement (four nights per week) and the Green Room (six nights per week).
That’s a tall order. After a long shutdown, Suher will have to rebuild connections with the music industry and recruit staff at a time of labor shortage. In March, when the License Commission seized the liquor permit for Pearl Street for non-use, Suher said he faced trouble staffing the properties and booking enough acts to be profitable.
Suher tried and failed once before to relaunch shows at a mothballed Pearl Street. The attempt withered after a few performances. This past week, the marquee at the Calvin was still heralding a show that came and went in January.
All the locked doors, on the music venues as well as other commercial spaces owned by Suher, have been a drag on civic life.
Rather than losing the licenses, Suher has the option of selling them, though last week’s agreement prohibits Suher from shuffling the licenses off to another business he owns, dodging the deadline.
Suher clearly wants this to be resolved. He was the one who approached the License Commission, seeking a settlement, according to the panel’s chairperson. “This is Eric’s opportunity,” she said this week.
Goodwill is on the line. The city has been patient. There likely won’t be a second chance. We hope the halls come back to life.