U Street Music Hall closes its doors due to coronavirus pandemic hardship

FILE — This March 2010 photo shows the dance floor at what was then the newly opened U Street Music Hall. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

U Street Music Hall, a staple of the live music scene in D.C. for the past decade, announced Monday that it is closing for good.

“There is no easy way to say this, but here we go: It is with tremendous sadness that we share with you today that U Street Music Hall is closing effective immediately,” the venue said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“When we closed our doors to the public this past March … none of us could have imagined at the time that we would still be closed nearly seven months later with no return date in sight because of the unrelenting disease called COVID-19.”

“Our team — like so many others in the industry that has been turned upside down — worked tirelessly over the the past seven months to see us trough this extended closure. But due to the pandemic, mounting operational costs that never paused even while we were closed, and no clear timeline for when clubs like ours can safely reopen, we had no choice recently but to make this heartbreaking decision.”

U Street Music Hall opened in 2010 across the street from the signature saxophone sign of Bohemian Caverns, which opened in 1926 and closed in 2016.

“Duke Ellington played his first concert right across the street from us,” founder Will Eastman told WTOP in 2018. “There’s a lot of music history in that area, from jazz to funk to soul to punk to go-go to underground dance music, right up to what we’re doing today, which is the newest, coolest, best new music that exists.”

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Shows included the first D.C. concert by Sam Smith, pop-ups by Drake, throwback legends such as Grandmaster Flash, and breakthrough shows by Odessa, Rüfüs Du Sol, Nina Kraviz, Flume, Halsey, Charli XCX and Louis the Child.

“To every artist and promoter who played in our DJ booth or stage or presented a show in our club: It was an absolute honor to be your D.C. home base and to follow and support your careers. Thank you for sharing your art with us,” the statement read.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a giant toll on the live events industry, including the closure of Twins Jazz and 18th Street Lounge.

Venues across the city lit up red on Sept. 1 as part of the Red Alert RESTART, pleading for Congress to pass the Save Our Stages Act and RESTART Act.

Six venues recently agreed to participate in a pilot program to reopen: City Winery, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Pearl Street Warehouse, the Kennedy Center, The Hamilton and Union Stage.

However, the city’s biggest concert promoter, I.M.P., didn’t even apply for its venues The Anthem, 9:30 Club and Lincoln Theatre because it didn’t make financial sense.

The National Independent Venue Association told WTOP in August that 90% of venues will have to permanently close in a few months without federal assistance.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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