RIP The Brewery
The last month has been hard on Brewery owner Tom Taylor. What seemed like a bad dream for music lovers became a sad reality as we learned that one of Raleigh’s most treasured music venues was to be torn down to make room for yet another drug store and parking garage that already litter downtown Raleigh. While everyone heard their own version of how the story went, we here at Rock-Wire wanted to set the record straight. We recently had the chance to talk with long time Brewery owner Tom Taylor, who told us exactly how it all happened, shares some of his favorite memories, and also lets us know if The Brewery will ever re-open in the future:
Rock-Wire: There have been a lot of different stories about how the shutdown of The Brewery occurred. Could you please set the record straight and share your side of the story with us?
Tom Taylor: Basically, a local businessman, who had wanted to buy The Brewery property for quite some time, purchased the building on June 30, 2011.I was informed by the new owner on July 18, that I needed to start looking for a new building, which I did. On July 22, I was told I had until Sept. 1, to be out. The following day, I was told I had until the end of July, and then the building was going to be torn down. After all shows were canceled, on July 29, I was then told they had made a mistake, and I actually had until Sept. 1. At that point, there was no possible way to make a month of shows happen when everything had been canceled. Two newspapers had run stories about The Brewery closing, and the exposure was just way too high. We probably would have lost money by trying to stay open.
RW: Obviously this has had a major impact on all of your lives. How many people did The Brewery employ? What are they planning to do now that the venue is gone?
TT: Besides me, The Brewery had four full-time employees and a handful of part-time employees. Unfortunately, since this happened so quickly, I’m not sure what any of us will do. This was our livelihood, and we didn’t have much notice to figure out where we were going next. My Manager, Derek Davis, has worked with me for seven years. He lives across the road on Hillsborough Street, and loved being a part of The Brewery. He and I have talked a bit, and we both feel kind of lost right now.
RW: Do you have any standout memories or shows that have happened during your time running The Brewery?
TT: There are so many stories of things that have happened. Some we probably shouldn’t have in writing. Ha! It was rarely a dull moment at The Brewery, though. I remember a band that was so horrible that I almost cut the power to the stage. Hellogoodbye played, and they came out wearing huge mustard and ketchup bottle costumes. Insane! A local metal band made up of high school kids came out and played a song by the 80s rock band Mr. Big. The original song featured Reb Beach on guitar and he played the guitar with an electric drill. These kids broke out electric drills on The Brewery stage and killed it! Those are some of the more tame stories I can share with you.
RW: The Brewery has a longstanding tradition of hosting shows made up of local and sometimes completely unknown bands. Many bands from the Raleigh area got their first shot at playing a real venue by playing at The Brewery. Can you elaborate on why you felt the need to do this? Many other smaller venues don’t take the risk of hosting these shows, as they usually don’t bring in a lot of money for the club. What was your thought behind producing these shows?
TT: When I first got to The Brewery, a lot of people gave me their list of “Don’ts.” I was told not to do hip hop, not to do all ages shows, and not to waste my time with bands that haven’t already made somewhat of a name for themselves. The first thing I did was break all three of those rules. I wanted to make The Brewery accessible to different groups of people, different ages, and different genres. When I was 16, I wanted to go see bands play, but rarely could. Unless you were 21, you didn’t get in. I remember in the 90s when everyone started forming original bands, you had to go see bands play in a guy’s basement because the clubs wouldn’t give them a shot. Some of those bands were good. Some of them weren’t good at all, but had some potential. But without shows, that potential would never be realized.. I enjoyed seeing bands come in and not know how things worked at a real venue, and pretty soon they were seasoned veterans. There used to be a band that played The Brewery called Sedona. Sedona was pretty good. They were made up of some talented musicians. They had a side project that was horrible! I sometimes would book Sedona, but the side project would play instead. We would cringe when we found out they had switched on us. But, pretty soon, that side project got REALLY good. We started preferring when the side project played. That band was Annuals, and we had a mini-celebration when they appeared on the Conan O’Brien show.
RW: Do you feel like you have left an impact on Raleigh’s music scene?
TT: You know, the people who came to the shows at The Brewery for the past seven years are the ones who can answer that question. I don’t think I, personally, left an impact. I think The Brewery, as a whole, has left an impact. Many lives were touched. I didn’t realize how many until it was announced that it was being torn down. But the outpouring has been overwhelming.. I get a little emotional when I talk about it, but so many people have told me that every friend they have they met at The Brewery. People have come up to me and shaken my hand and thanked me for the past seven years. It really makes you feel good. I always tell those people that they are very welcome, but that I didn’t do it alone. I tried to surround myself with people who knew what they were doing. The ultimate decisions were mine, but I had a lot of help. I mentioned Derek before; I don’t know what I would have done without him for the past seven years. He took care of things when I wasn’t there. Whether I was out of town on business, or an extended point when my health got bad, I knew that he would make sure things ran well.
RW: Although the demolition of the venue is still very recent, do you have any plans to re-open The Brewery in a new location?
TT: Right now, there are no concrete plans to reopen The Brewery. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but I have to decide if I even want to do it. It has been a crazy couple weeks, and I still don’t feel as though I have been able to catch my breath. I know there are a lot of people who would love to see it reopen, but I just don’t know. Maybe it is best to let The Brewery pass. Maybe it’s best to find a newer and nicer building and give it another run. We’ll see.
RW: Is there anything you would like to say to the public in closing?
TT: I just want to thank everyone for the support for The Brewery for the past 28 years and, especially, in the past seven years I have been there. It was a lot of fun, and I met some awesome people along the way. Thanks to all the bands, promoters, and agents who chose to work with us at The Brewery. There are a lot of choices when it comes to live music venues, and I always appreciated it when someone wanted to work with us.
With that, we here at Rock-Wire would like to extend our thanks to Tom and all the rest of the staff at The Brewery for providing music lovers with a place to call home. A place where we could go to hang out and enjoy something that brings us all together… the music. I know i speak for everyone when i say that you will be missed, but the memories will live on forever. RIP The Brewery.