For the time being, one popular Seattle rock venue is cutting off the mics. On Monday, August 23, the longtime Greenwood dive Tim’s Tavern — known for a consistently strong live music lineup — announced on Facebook that it was closing at its current address for good, canceling all concerts moving forward due to a leasing issue and the ongoing pandemic. But the owners promise that the show would go on at another location, which they’re currently hunting down.
“With bands cancelling almost daily due to [COVID] exposures and a member of our staff contracting the virus, it’s simply not worth it to continue hosting live shows at Tim’s Tavern,” the announcement read. “On top of all of this our landlord has decided to move in a different direction with our current space and will not be renewing our lease which ends in the next couple months… Rest assured we are currently searching for a new outdoor, safer and more covid [sic] friendly space.”
The bar is at a location that has changed hands multiple times over the decades, dating back to the 1930s, when it was called Jack’s Tavern. Tim Arnot purchased the spot in 2011 and created more space for a stage, while maintaining the original character, drawing in neighborhood denizens for sports and trivia (the Seattle Times once wrote that “the grizzled patrons loved that he didn’t turn this tavern into another hipster hangout like on Capitol Hill”). But live music — particularly energetic punk shows — soon became the main attraction thanks to the efforts of the late Greg Gibson, a respected promoter and booking agent, who died in a house fire in 2016.
After Gibson’s death, Mason Reed and promoter Matthew “Matto” O’Toole took the reins at Tim’s (purchasing the place outright from Arnot) and continued its down-to-earth aspirations as an artist-friendly launching pad. Reed notes that 100 percent of ticket sales go to the bands that play there, while a basic lineup of beer, cocktails, and light bar snacks help keep the lights on. “Most people say they can just show up here and know they’ll be blown away [by a concert],” he says.
But like most performance spaces in Seattle, Tim’s closed down in March 2020 when the pandemic first impacted the region and stayed shut for more than a year. A GoFundMe campaign and a YouTube channel helped the business stay afloat until federal grant money came in from the Save Our Stages Act.
On July 2, Tim’s reopened, only to encounter yet more challenges due to the spread of the delta variant. Even though the venue instituted a proof of vaccination requirement (or negative COVID test within 48 hours) for entry, as well as a mask mandate even before Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent order went into effect, the small confines put the owners ill at ease. With a recent breakthrough COVID case among the staff, and a pending lease expiration in November, the owners decided to just shut things down now and look for a new location, hopefully one with some outdoor space.
In the meantime, the famed neon sign is going into storage, as the Tim’s Tavern stewards plot their next move. They plan to keep the name and are grateful for the support they’ve already received from fans and former patrons to stay in business this long. Says Reed, “We’re going to do whatever we can to support the musical community.”