In March no one really could have guessed how COVID-19 ultimately would continue to impact our daily lives throughout spring, summer and now at the very least through the end of 2020, but most likely beyond. Local businesses who continue to struggle to keep the lights on or unable to open fully, or in any capacity, are trying to get creative in producing income. Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern is among them.
Reggie’s hasn’t had a show since March 6. They have made it by selling to-go beers on weekends and offering special merch, like T-shirts designed by local artist Eli Thompson. “It’s some money coming in and everything helps,” Reggie’s co-owner Chuck Krueger says, “but it all pales in comparison to the amount of money we’re bleeding out monthly.”
Even after qualifying for a one-time assistance check, Krueger says the amount of money was only a little more than a half month’s rent. “We’re going on five months of paying rent with no forgiveness,” he adds, “as well as every other bill that comes with owning a bar.”
Being veteran musicians themselves, Krueger and business partner Matt Hearn are coordinating a livestream fundraiser on Friday, July 24, featuring their respective bands Thunderlip, Evening Shadows and Little Gems. Each band will perform from Reggie’s stage starting around 8 p.m. The concerts will stream on YouTube, and will promote donations through their Venmo account, @Reggies-Merch. Krueger will post streaming details and links to Reggie’s Instagram and Facebook pages prior to the show.
“This will be the first [livestream we’ve done,] so hopefully we’ll get all of the bugs out and not embarrass ourselves,” Krueger quips. “15 dudes with masks on, locked in a bar together for a few hours … we’ll see.”
Krueger sings in the longstanding Wilmington rock band Thunderlip, which released its third album “Sunday Driving” in 2015. Krueger also will front his most recent project, Little Gems, on Friday. A “heavy pop” outfit, Little Gems recently recorded a few songs with Ian Millard at Dogwood Lane Studios, which they’ll debut during the livestream. Krueger is joined by guitarist Lincoln Morris (The Male Men, Onward, Soldier); bassist Chris Bare (Mountain Thrower) and drummer Logan Watson (David Dixon Trio, The Dust Parade).
“One good thing with the bar being closed is I have this big stage to practice on and [can] social distance, so at least the music for my bands has been productive,” Krueger notes. “The main notable thing [about this Friday is] Evening Shadows. Matt Hearn is the singer. It also consists of Matt Smith of Strike Anywhere, Scott Key from ASG, Tyler Wolf from Valient Thorr and Jason Pierce from Toke. I’d say if NC never had a ‘supergroup’ before, they do now!”
Hearn opened Reggie’s back in 2004 and Krueger bought into the rock venue and bar in 2009. Looking back on spring 2020, Krueger says he and Hearn had no idea they’d be closing their doors indefinitely after the March 6 show featuring The Obsessed with Today is the Day.
“That was probably the first slap to the face of this whole thing,” he says. “Typically, that would have been a huge show for us, so we put up a large money guarantee for the show, only to have a small fraction of the crowd we originally expected because everyone knew COVID was coming, and I think everyone had stopped going out because of it. We most certainly didn’t expect it to be this long and that was a seriously low blow to start the whole thing.”
Aside from his own bands, hundreds of indie, electric, punk, rock and overall eclectic showstoppers have hit Reggie’s stage during Krueger’s tenure: The Dwarves, Dead Meadow, The Queers top his list, as well as local and regional heavy hitters like ASG, Freedom Hawk and Royal Thunder.
“One time, Joe Jack Talcum from The Dead Milkmen took requests,” Krueger remembers. “That was pretty amazing and surreal.”
Obviously, one needs touring bands to be able to keep a venue open—and it wasn’t always easy filling Reggie’s calendar with shows even without a global pandemic looming overhead, especially during those early years. Reggie’s lineups came from countless cold calls and making friends while on tour. After some successful shows and developing relationships with agencies and industry stakeholders, booking bands on the regular had become exponentially easier over time.
“You have to figure out how much money you’re willing to gamble on guarantees that the bands are gonna bring out heads,” Krueger shares. “These last few months have just come to a screeching halt. Every notable show we had on the books has been pushed back now probably until next year if we can hang on that long. It’s tough having your dream job one minute and then total uncertainty just a few months later.”