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After a year of pandemic-related closings, a bit of good music-venue news: Fenway could get a new music hall

Rockwood telling the Boston Licensing Board of his plans

Ken Rockwood talks music-hall buildouts with the licensing board.

The operator of a small Manhattan music hall hopes to open a similar facility at Van Ness and Kilmarnock streets in the Fenway.

Ken Rockwood, who has run the Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side since 2005, told the Boston Licensing Board today it would take him six to eight months to build out the 1,850-square foot space in the back section of the building that houses the Fenway Target store - although he added the actual opening date might also depend on Covid-19 issues.

The board could decide at a meeting Thursday whether to approve Rockwood's request to buy the liquor license of the shuttered Uno in Kenmore Square for his new club, which would have room for up to 95 patrons with tables in place or 120 if most of the tables were removed. Rockwood is also seeking permission to change the license from one which requires food service to one that would let him serve just alcohol.

The Boston music scene has been battered over the past year by a series of venue shutdowns, many related to Covid-19.

Among the proposal's supporters: Sean Curran of the Boston Arts Academy Foundation. The school is expected to move into its new building on Ipswich Street next year, and Curran said he could think of nothing better for students than to have a "successful and intimate space" nearby featuring "virtuoso performances" by great musicians.

Curran added the music hall would further cement the Fenway's position as an arts center in the Boston area.

As required, Rockwood's local attorney, Joseph Hanley, described the "public need" for a liquor license at that location. "The need was being met transferred to a smaller facility more consistent with the ethos of the Fenway as a music and performing arts area."

The mayor's office and the offices of Councilor Kenzie Bok, who represents the Fenway and at-large Councilor Anissa Essaibi-George also backed the proposal. The Fenway Civic Association also backed the proposal.

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And we need more of it. Hopefully the board will see the benefit of licensing small arts and music venues who have no need to serve food in an area already well-stocked with seated food options.

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Voting closed 34

Small venues with patrons packed in like sardines “Those days are gone” This thinks he’s Patrick Lyons .

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Voting closed 11

Folks, there are plenty of people living in the Fenway who didn't sign up to live in Boston's little Las Vegas.

> The Red Sox and LiveNation already have a 5,000-capacity music performance venue under construction at Ipswich and Landsdowne streets. It'll bring in another 5,000 people on game nights ON TOP OF the 39,000 who can fit into the ballpark (yes, this will happen—Sox management have already conceded this).
> Traffic is unbearable on game nights as is. A neighbor's husband had a heart attack during a game and the ambulance *couldn't get him through to the LMA* because he stupidly mis-timed his heart failure.
> The Red Sox are hellbent on scheduling 13 concerts next summer (assuming they can have large events that soon) and calling it an economic-recovery measure. For John Henry, mabye When Springsteen played in 2003, it was billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event; by that measure, we must be living our 67th life.

Lots of people moved to this neighborhood knowing that they'd have to deal with 80 ballgames year. What they did NOT sign up for was an always-expanding schedule of concerts and special events; ever-growing entertainment venues; bigger crowds; more traffic, more air pollution, more noise pollution; and persistent bad behavior by a small but reliable number of fans—who doesn't love walking out of their house to find someone taking a drunken leak on the lawn?

This is a big city. There's no reason these venues HAVE to concentrate in an established residential neighborhood.

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Voting closed 15

Hasn't House of Blues been there since 2009, and Avalon and Axis before that? As others have noted, the Rat was there until 97, and a bunch of other clubs besides. What time period did all these people move in to this neighborhood without realizing that in addition to a giant stadium that was going to get used for events, there were also a whole bunch of concert venues, bars, clubs, etc that were attracting a whole lot of people to the area?

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Voting closed 38

Not to mention Church (fmr. Linwood), Copperfield's, and the Hong Kong Cafe in HoJo's. All within two blocks of the proposed location and active until the last few years. The triangle between Brookline Ave. and Boylston has been peppered with small music venues for many decades. This isn't some new change to the neighborhood.

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Voting closed 12

What time period did all these people move in to this neighborhood without realizing that in addition to a giant stadium that was going to blah blah blah

The West Fens as a residential neighborhood predates all that. The individuals come and go, but anyone who has lived there over the past 30 years can tell about new clubs and entertainment venues and tourist-oriented businesses opening up -- not replacing existing ones, adding to them -- without consideration for the needs of the neighborhood.

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Voting closed 6

I wasn't really conscious of it at the time, but I am informed by those in the know that there were a whole bunch of cool venues and clubs in the Kenmore area at that time, many of which have actually been closed and replaced by standard restaurants. Are there really more clubs/venues/"tourist-oriented businesses" there now than there were in 1990? I would be really surprised to learn that this is actually the case.

(and I put "tourist-oriented" in quotes, since as someone who is decidedly not a tourist but enjoys catching a game at Fenway or a concert at the HoB a few times a year, I think it's a weird assumption to think that these places are only catering to out-of-towners and provide no value to people living in the area)

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Voting closed 13

Boston isn't boring enough.. NIMBY. Please fight to keep this place as dull as possible. NIMBY. More banks and atms.

Oh and NIMBY. NIMBY too.

signed, NIMBY

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Voting closed 13

Are 120 people really going to be disruptive on the same block as the giant Target?

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hahahahahahahahahahaah you live in a neighborhood with a world famous baseball stadium, not to mention a rich history of music venues that, curiously, have been slowly squeezed out of the area in the past 40 years.

move to a different neighborhood if you want quiet. this is like the fucking idiots buying north end luxury condos calling in noise complaints because of TD Garden. literally fuck you for trying to gentrify this neighborhood.

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Give this man whatever help he needs to get this going. I can't wait for the after times!

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Voting closed 24

What's old is new again!

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A bar for high school students?

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The "bar" part is for adults, but the music is for everyone. I used to go to the Regatta Bar in High School. I'm sure the waitstaff prefers the 21+ crowd that spends more on drinks, but at the time I thought I was tipping well.

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Voting closed 12

There are ways that a music place can work with a high school (a performing-arts high school, specifically) without slipping them bottles of Bud.

Internships.
Classes or discussions by the performers in the high school - during the day.
All-ages shows during the day on weekends (similarly, letting the students put on their own all-ages shows during the day on weekends).

I'm sure there are others.

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Voting closed 15

When I attended, Boston Arts Academy was allowed to use the Avalon on occasion, for yearly talent shows and the like. BAA also made use of other mostly (college/university) auditoriums and theatres in the Fenway area and further afield. I don't think that's what Curran is referring to here, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.

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Exactly what kind of facility would this be? Is it a club? They're applying for a liquor license, yet the guy from the Boston Arts Academy Foundation says it would be a "successful and intimate space" to be frequented by high school students.

By the way, if they get the Kenmore Pizzeria Uno liquor license it would be funny, because Uno used to be Storyville, which was a successful local music club in the 80s. Around and around it goes.

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Voting closed 8

That place used to be some sort of music joint too. Heard it was a real dump.

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Voting closed 9

It was called the Rat. No dump (beauty is in the eyes of the beholder)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rathskeller

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Voting closed 11

Prior to eastern standard it had been a Kmart as long as I can remember, and I'm reaaaaaaalllly old. Good grilled cheese and deals on patio furniture. Boy I miss the good old days.

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Voting closed 8

Even moderately old would probably remember the Rat which was there forever.

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Voting closed 7

Sounds like they want it to be like Club Passim.

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Voting closed 9

...does not serve alcohol.

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According to their menu posted online.

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CBC even made them their own special beer.

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It sounds sort of like City Winery or even Harper's Ferry, um, the Brighton Music Hall.

See my answer above about how such a place might work with a performing-arts high school that doesn't involve underage drinking.

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I'm sorry, but the Brighton Music Hall, the former Harper's Ferry, is a bar, and a divey one at that. I don't know why it has this "status" that some seem to confer on it. I wouldn't put high school students in there even in the daytime. The place even smells like a bar.

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i saw bo diddley play there so it has a certain status with me

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the former Harper's Ferry, is a bar, and a divey one at that.

I can tell you've never been in this place since it became the Brighton Music Hall. It's run by the same folks who run the Paradise. They have nationally touring acts. You pay good money to see the bands. They always have a lot of security working the place. There are a few dives still left in Allston, but this ain't one of them.

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Voting closed 10

Aren't Kings, Jillian's, and other bowling alleys also places that serve alcohol *and* are frequented by large numbers of under-21's?

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Wow, I can't believe all the angst about a place with music and alcohol being the devil's work. We're in a pandemic! There are more important things to worry about than the "what if's" about teenagers performing in a place that later in the day will sell booze.

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that rhymes with V that stands for Music Venue.

What we really need here is a smooth-talking grifter to come in and announce that instead, he'll be setting up a pool hall for our youngsters to hang out.

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This is a great idea. I've been hoping Rockwood in NYC (3 stages) would pull through the pandemic. Happy to see Ken Rockwood is doing well enough to propose the Boston expansion.

I played in a touring band based in Somerville from 2009-2011. These are some of the venues we played in the Boston area:

Johnny D's
Precinct
All Asia
Church
Harper's Ferry
Copperfield's

0 of them remain (although Harper's is still a venue). You can't really have a thriving city or a music scene without independent venues that hold 300 patrons or less.

If you're worried about noise and alcohol and the devil, and you STILL haven't moved to the suburbs, this is your big chance.

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