The pandemic has taken a toll on small and independent businesses around LA, and, despite critical federal aid spearheaded by National Independent Venue Association, music venues are not immune.
Beloved indie venue The Bootleg Theater in Historic Filipinotown announced Monday that the space is closing its doors at 2220 Beverly Boulevard, with no concrete plans to open at another location. However, the organization behind the Bootleg says it will continue to produce shows digitally and at other venues “in the near future.”
“Due to a forced sale brought on by the partner we purchased the property with in 1999, we reached an impasse of irreconcilable differences before the pandemic hit, and the crush of closure made the situation impossible for us to continue,” Bootleg owners and founders Jason and Alicia Adams said in a statement.
The Bootleg ceased operations due to the pandemic on March 12, 2020, following what the Adams’ say was its best year in history, presenting 420 live performances, hosting around 3500 artists, and entertaining 30,000 patrons.
Over the years, the multi-room, 1930s warehouse has established itself as a critical incubator for fledgling local acts and communities—from residencies to fundraisers to festivals—as well as a launch pad for rising national and international talent. Past performers at The Bootleg include Pussy Riot (first US show), Moses Sumney (first live show and the venue’s last residency in 2020), Jonathan Richman, Phoebe Bridgers (first live show), Lianne LeHavas (first US show), Broken Bells (first live show), Garbage, Screaming Females, John Carpenter (first live show), Car Seat Headrest (first LA show), and many others.
The majority of LA’s independent venues appear to be reopening post-pandemic thanks to assistance from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, but not all have been able to weather the pressures and challenges of the unprecedented circumstances. The Bootleg joins indie club The Hi-Hat in Highland Park and jazz staple The Blue Whale in Little Tokyo among venues that have permanently shuttered during or as a result of the pandemic.
Update 12:45 p.m.:
In a post to the Bootleg’s Facebook page, the Adams’ further explained the decision to permanently shutter the venue.
“After resisting numerous outside offers to sell out the Bootleg to conglomerates such as Live Nation, we managed to keep the little-engine-that could chugging along. It is a gut punch to us that our ultimate demise was an inside job.
… Sadly, the Bootleg Theater Venue is closing down after our best year ever in 2019, having made it through the pandemic still solvent and looking toward the future with excitement, hope and anticipation. We were fully self-sustaining operationally, and our employees had made it through thanks to PPP loans and a GoFundMe campaign that had the generous support of the community. Our non-profit had applied for more City, County, State and NEA programming grants and received them all. But we just couldn't hold on to the property any longer.”
The post also revealed that the venue itself still may have a future as a performance space under new operators.
“The silver lining is that we are passing the torch to two Angelenos who have the dream and vision of a new version of a performance space at what will be affectionately known as the old Bootleg space,” they wrote. “They came in at the last minute, sparing the venue from being used as retail or torn down for more unaffordable housing. They will be issuing a separate press release in the future. Please join us in making their venture a success for the Los Angeles community.”
Andrea Domanick is KCRW’s Digital Producer, Music and Culture. Follow her on Twitter.