EVERETT — The rock ‘n’ roll power chords have returned to Tony V’s Garage. The downtown venue has reopened after shutting down for six months because of the pandemic.
Tony V’s, a popular spot for stand-up comedy and live music, opened its doors again on Feb. 5.
Owner Tony Verhey said he needed a $150,000 loan to reopen the Everett bar. Either that, or it would stay closed permanently.
“We’re doing all right. We’re pretty much hitting the projections I thought it would with the occupancy we can do,” said Verhey, who opened Tony V’s, formerly Jimmy Z’s, in 2008. “It’s carrying its own — I mean, there’s a huge loan involved — but it’s paying its own bills.”
As soon as he knew that Tony V’s would remain his, Verhey finished renovations on the bar.
There’s 18 more feet of bar, for a total of 42 feet and three service areas. Verhey also upgraded the awning because the previous one was 30 years old. There is a new marquee in corrugated steel, diamond-plated doors and a new lighted sign. You can’t miss it.
“We went black and chrome on the outside,” Verhey said. “We actually used a 1967 Pontiac GTO’s door handles as the handles on the doors. We’ve never had a lighted sign in the building, so I had a sign made.”
The Pontiac door handles were the finishing touch. They were installed March 19.
“The door handles we wanted to put on got lost in transport,” Verhey said. “The big snow storm in Texas slowed everything down.”
The venue is known for the alternative, hard-rock and metal bands it books, and for the burgers and beers it serves.
Verhey expanded the bar in 2016 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.
Now that Snohomish County is OK’d for Phase 3, the garage is allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Verhey said he’d love to get 200 fans to each show, but he can only fit 20 tables next to the stage. So his Friday and Saturday shows sell out at 80 tickets.
February’s shows — when capacity was at 25% — were all free. They served as a “litmus test” for providing live music during the pandemic.
“We didn’t advertise the band, but people would hear music,” said Ben Scott, Tony V’s head of security and booking agent for live music. “We wanted to gauge how the crowd responded and and how to deal with the masks and the distancing and everything.”
By March 5, Tony V’s was ready to sell tickets. That show featured Everett’s The Moon is Flat and Dojos from Granite Falls.
“Almost every show has sold out. It’s been fantastic,” Scott said. “The crowds, obviously, are just excited to be out of their houses and doing anything other than staring at their TVs and the bands are thrilled to be on stage and playing again. Because we literally had an entire year where there were no shows.”
Who’s playing at Tony V’s this weekend? Well Adjusted and Hellcat will take the stage Friday, followed by Custom with Fuzz Droner on Saturday. All four Everett area bands are fan favorites at Tony V’s. Shows start at 8 p.m.
Tony V’s has booked all of its Friday and Saturday shows through June. Want your band to play at the garage? Email email@example.com.
If you’re not ready for a show, that’s OK. You can stop by for some buffalo wings and onion rings. Or maybe to play a game of pool. All of it helps Tony V’s stay in business.
The additional capacity allowed in Phase 3 means Verhey is seeing about 40% of what revenues were before COVID-19 hit.
After the governor’s lockdown, Tony V’s opened back up for to-go orders in April. But that wasn’t paying the bills, so Verhey shut down again until May. Verhey then set up a schedule of live-stream shows each Friday and Saturday. Even that turned out to be economically unfeasible. By the time he opened back up in July, all he could think about was the debt he was racking up.
Verhey was tired of playing yo-yo with his business. So he closed Tony V’s doors on July 27.
“We told everybody that we were closed permanently, but we weren’t sure,” Scott said, adding that open mic and stand-up comedy are still on hold for now. “We figured, if we are able to reopen people will be excited, and if we’re not able to reopen, people won’t be disappointed because we already said we would be closed.”
Verhey said he’s — once again — overwhelmed by all of the support from fans of Tony V’s Garage on Facebook.
“We are happy to be back and doing this again,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it. At one point, I had been doing it for so long, I was really done with it, but to be away from it and to come back to it, has been very good for me.”
Thanks to the $150,000 loan, all of Verhey’s business debt that ballooned due to COVID-19 is paid off. That includes all the back-rent he needed to pay the landlord in 2020.
“We paid everything off,” he said. “We opened up the year with no bills except for our own overhead.”
Verhey worked at Pep Boys in Everett when his venue closed. He is still listed as a part-time employee just in case.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sarabruestle.
If you go
Tony V’s Garage, 1716 Hewitt Ave., Everett, is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Live music is scheduled for every Friday and Saturday night. Call 425-374-3567 or find Tony V’s Garage on Facebook for more information.