After 25 years, last call at Everett’s Jimmy Z’s

EVERETT — The swan song for Jimmy Z’s in downtown Everett was played with a medley of power chords, Marshall stacks and Zildjian cymbals.

The iconic Hewitt Avenue night club closed Saturday after a quarter century in business at the same location in downtown Everett.

Over the years, it has hosted plenty of local bands and rising and falling stars on the national scene among them: Bo Diddley, The Presidents of the United States of America, 2 Live Crew and one Ramone.

The 1980s rock band Great White was scheduled to play there in 2003, shortly before a pyrotechnic accident at a packed Rhode Island club killed 100 people.

“I don’t really have the energy like I had before,” said Jimmy Zaher, the club’s owner and namesake.

Zaher, 54, started the business primarily as a restaurant in 1983 shortly after moving from Brooklyn to Seattle where he hoped to break in on the dining scene.

A real estate agent showed him around Everett, and he wound up buying a restaurant called Panamas. Within a few years, he changed its name to Jimmy Z’s and started focusing on entertainment, which he learned was more profitable than the restaurant business.

He expanded, added a second stage and booked Top-40 rock acts that helped fill the 500 person capacity club.

Donnie Davidson, 30, said the club always will hold a special place in his heart.

“Jimmy Z’s has been there every since I was young,” said Davidson, whose father owned an office building across the street. “In the downtown area, all the businesses have changed, but Jimmy Z’s has remained.”

Zaher visited Davidson when he was living in London, and offered him sage advice after a downtown Internet cafe that he ran went out of business, Davidson said.

“I love him,” Davidson said “He’s provided me a place to go to be with my friends, and he’s been a real mentor for me.”

Troy Rimstad, who plays drums for the Everett heavy metal band Drown Mary, said Zaher’s club was a good place for fledgling bands to cut their teeth.

“He’s done more for bands in this area than anyone else has, that’s for sure,” Rimstad said. “In the Everett area there are a handful of bars, but nothing with the stage setup and the lighting and sound system that Jimmy Z’s has.”

Saturday night brought back dozens of loyal customers.

Among them was Fred Haggett, 31, from Bothell, who has been coming to Jimmy Z’s for 10 years “mostly to see friends bands play. It’s just such a good place for local music.”

Tom Everett, 31, wore a black shirt with white “Security” lettering across his chest Saturday night, but 14 years earlier he snuck up on the roof to listen through the skylights when Quiet Riot played at Jimmy Z’s. Along the way, he performed on stage with bands where, he said, he would sing and breathe fire.

“I’m going to miss it,” he said.

So will Mike Wear, 40, a construction worker who also is a promoter and was emcee for “Jimmy’s last stand” Saturday night.

“This is a music melting pot is what it is,” Wear said. “We are like one big family in here.”

Wear stood on the Hewitt Avenue sidewalk and looked up toward the marquee promoting local bands.

“It is the end of an era, a very long era,” he said. “I was young when I first came in here.”

Walking around the club before the final concert, Zaher pointed to a DJ booth with a decks of VCRs connected to a wall of dusty television sets next to the well-worn dance floor.

The decor seemed a throwback to a 1980s MTV video, complete with colorful stage lights overhead.

Zaher said the late 1980s and early 1990s were the heydays for Jimmy Z’s. Cover charges were $2, well drinks were $1.75 and people liked to party, he said.

“The town really wanted something like this,” he said.

Since then, stricter enforcement of drinking and driving laws, competition from tribal casinos, and the state’s smoking ban have chipped away at business, Zaher said.

While Hewitt Avenue still is dotted with empty storefronts, Zaher said he has seen improvements come to downtown since he opened.

Soon he will hand off the keys to the club at 1712 Hewitt Ave. to a new owner who plans to refurbish business before reopening under a different name.

Zaher owns the building and a his home on Colby Avenue and said he intends to continue living in Everett.

He said he may visit his native Egypt or take some time off, but he said he won’t be idle.

“There’s no way I am going to crawl up and sit in a chair and watch TV,” he said.

Reporter Eric Stevick contributed to this story.

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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