EVERETT — The rock ‘n’ roll power chords won’t be returning to Tony V’s Garage. The downtown venue is yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tony V’s, a popular spot for stand-up comedy and live music, has shut its doors.
Owner Tony Verhey said he hopes that the Everett bar can reopen with Phase 4 of the state reopening plan — but his business can’t wait for that to happen.
“It was the only financially sound way to do it, was to close down for now,” he said. “When August rolled around, we weren’t making more than $500 to $600 a day. It won’t cover the cost to run the place.”
Verhey, 56, opened Tony V’s, formerly Jimmy Z’s, in 2008. The venue is known for the alternative, hard-rock and metal bands it books, and for the burgers and beers it serves.
In 2016, Verhey expanded the bar by moving into the space next door at 1716 Hewitt Ave. It’s now 7,500 square feet, up from 3,000 square feet. It made for enough room to allow for 400 fans at shows, up from 100.
“I had a little buyer’s remorse in that because I got the same 100 people coming to shows,” Verhey said.
Tony V’s also hosts shows for the Everett Music Initiative, including its three-day festival in May that features around 60 local, regional and national acts in downtown Everett. The Moondoggies, from Everett, were scheduled to perform at the now-postponed Fisherman’s Village Music Festival.
Tony V’s hosts a free comedy showcase Monday nights. A fan of the show, Verhey added a comedy room with the expansion in 2016. Comedy Garage is an open mic that draws regional comedians working out their longer sets and local amateurs trying new material. A touring headliner — a new one is booked each week — rounds out the show.
“I’m going to miss Tony V’s,” said Blake Kiltoff, who co-hosted Comedy Garage. “I don’t know any other venues that preserved that old-school cool Everett flavor while still fostering an atmosphere that was inclusive and welcoming to all.
“Even when the nightlife returns to the city, we are going to miss the awesome vibe of Tony V’s Garage. Live comedy and music will never be the same in Everett without the garage.”
Tony V’s also hosts SLAM, short for Support Local Art & Music, a special event in April where musicians perform and artists showcase their work to raise money for Strong Against Cancer. Last year, alone, SLAM raised more than $5,000 to fight childhood cancer.
Ben Scott was Tony V’s head of security and booking agent for live music — and he performed stand-up there when he had the time.
“That was my career,” Scott said. “Suddenly I’m out of work, but I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself.”
Tony V’s closed in March because of the coronavirus. The garage opened back up for to-go orders in April, but that wasn’t paying the bills either, so Verhey shut down again until May.
Verhey set up a schedule of live-stream shows each Friday and Saturday through May, with fans donating to Tony V’s to keep it open. But even that turned out to be economically unfeasible.
Scott said Tony V’s reopened in Phase 2 before Gov. Jay Inslee clarified that live entertainment is prohibited until Phase 4 of his four-phase reopening plan. (For the two shows they booked, they sold out fast.) So it closed down again, then opened back up in July.
Verhey said he is tired of playing yo-yo with his business.
So now, he’s waiting for a $150,000 loan and Phase 4 to open.
Scott said Verhey needs the loan in order to reopen this year. He doesn’t see it reopening any other way.
“There’s a chance we could stay open, but it’s a crap shoot right now,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, we are closed. I’m crossing my fingers that it can come back. Tony and I will do our best.”
To top it all off, Verhey is in the middle of renovations that he’s paying for with a $20,000 loan. He’s already had 18 more feet of bar put in, for a total of 42 feet and three service areas. Verhey said he’s also upgrading the awning because it’s 30 years old. There will be a new marquee in corrugated steel, diamond-plated doors and a new lighted sign.
“It will look gorgeous,” Verhey said. “I just don’t know if we’ll ever get to use it.”
He said he’s overwhelmed by all of the support from fans of Tony V’s Garage on Facebook.
“I sometimes still sob myself to sleep,” he said. “I love that everybody wants and expects it to stay, but the expectations are so overwhelming. It’s really not up to me anymore, that’s the worst part about it.”
In January, Verhey had made a plan to pay off all of his business debt in 18 months. They had a record February, with shows booked out all the way to July. Then the coronavirus hit Snohomish County.
“Now I’m about three times in debt,” Verhey said.
Verhey said he plans to call Automotive Diagnostic Center in Smokey Point about a job Thursday. He worked there before buying the bar.
“Everyone knows I’m a fighter and I’m not giving up, but I can’t guarantee it,” he said. “Those expectations are rough.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sarabruestle.