By Pam Baumgardner
I wrote an article recently titled, “Venues vs Musicians?” where I point out the two should work hand in hand to empower each other, but I also encourage music fans to loosen their purse strings and support the venues and events who pay their musicians. I suggested buying dinner there; paying the cover charge; getting a late night snack, or buy a round of drinks (soda counts!). This is how venues stay in business. It’s not rocket science! Yet, it still came as a shock when Zoey’s closed their doors this week to a lot of people. Some of us had heard rumors for some time hoping for the best. But alas, it was not to be.
Steve and Polly Hoganson really gave it a good run and provided Ventura with top notch national touring acts while giving locals a place to shine and try out new projects.
For a little understanding on what happened, Polly gave me some background on how they had been running their business. When they started, they had their entire family involved, “Our kids Adam, Marie and Andrew (our chef) were all in charge of certain aspects of the business. Their involvement was so important to keeping the business humming. Over the years life events took over and slowly the kids left to follow other endeavors, with our blessing. We tried to replace them but we never truly recovered from that loss.”
But a major key element is that Zoey’s was two entities in one. A restaurant and a music venue. Polly said, “We tried to be a foodie destination up until a year ago when our son left to become a chef at Ojai Valley Inn. He was the heart of our kitchen and a very gifted chef.
After Steve and Polly’s son left they scaled back their menu and focused on the music. Polly explained, “Many fans would come for the music, pay the cover but not order any food or drink. Since most of the door went to the artist there were some nights when the band would walk away with more money than the venue. Too many of these nights takes a toll on the bottom line. We never did establish any other identity. We were just a venue with a great listening room and eclectic, unique original music. Not a pick up bar, not a DJ dance spot, not a food and wine destination. Just amazing musical performances.”
And that was part and parcel to Zoey’s downfall.
It quickly became quite a struggle keeping Zoey’s open. Polly confessed, “We not only poured our heart and soul but all our personal resources into Zoey’s until we had no more. We had help from family and friends and will be grateful to them for giving us another year or two of life but with so many other choices downtown our limited audience was not able to sustain us.”
Adding insult to injury, the stress and everyday grind started to take its toll on Polly’s health. Taking care of these personal issues rightfully is now top priority.
In a closing statement from Steve and Polly, they give their thanks and wishes for Ventura:
“We thank our entire staff who hung in there during the good and bad times. Soundman extraordinaire Jeremy along with Aly, Kenny, Adam. Our front of house – Mel, Amy, Bernie, Titus, Maya & Cass. Back of house – Marta & Chris. Special thanks to Sam Bolle, Tony and Mike Ferrari, son in law Harry and son Andrew for helping us on the last day.
We love Ventura and want all our friends and music fans to know it’s been such an fantastic experience. We will always cherish and remember our time at Zoey’s for years to come. All in all we are proud of what Zoey’s was and what our legacy is – Bringing new and established artists to the forefront and giving them a place to be who they truly are.”
Again, borrowing from my previous article: “So in the end, you’ll ask yourself, did you help? Did you take some responsibility in making this town a great music community?”
Ventura’s music scene really is something special. But it needs to be nourished and supported, before it’s too late for all.
Do not let this lesson be for nought.
Chi McClean, Matt Zeltzer and Dan Grimm