For the past seven and a half years, Sessions Music Hall’s stage has seen performances from the likes of legendary punk groups to folk and everything in between. But the venue is closing its doors, citing the pandemic’s hit on live music, according to an August 10 press release from owner Danny Kime.
The venue opened in May 2015 as Hi-Fi Music Hall. In 2019, the venue became Sessions. The name change occurred after a legal dispute between Hi-Fi’s original founders, Kime and owner Mike Hergenreter said in a 2019 press release.
Sessions had two bars, an outdoor patio, a restaurant and two music venues — one for larger concerts and the other for smaller shows. Shortly before COVID-19, Kime said in the August 10 press release that the venue was about to have its best year.
Then the pandemic hit.
“Sessions Music Hall applied for all grants available to keep the venue open,” Kime said. “After receiving the first grant, Sessions immediately started booking concerts and keeping staff on during the worst of the pandemic, losing money on every show because of decreased attendance.”
Kime provided more details about the venue in an August 11 press release. He said that the venue had to reopen after receiving the federal Shuttered Venue Operators grant. But the reopen occurred at the start of the Delta variant.
“The timing was terrible as the Delta variant hit right as our fall concert season was taking off, so we slowed our business down and planned to come back strong in the winter of 2022. Once again, we were hit with Omnicron right as we were pushing to reopen,” Kime said. “Of course, we are not unique — everyone in the concert industry has the same sob story. What should we have done differently?”
Kime said that the Independent Venue Coalition in Oregon helped lobby for additional grants from the state of Oregon. But being located in the heart of Eugene’s downtown, the 10,000-square-foot building has a lot of expenses. “It was a thin margin business prior to the pandemic, but we were making it work,” he said. “Flash forward to today, and the business model simply doesn’t make sense. There’s many contributing factors that makes our business exceptionally difficult and I don’t envision this changing for at least a few more years.”
The final grant that the venue received was less than what was initially described, he added, so Sessions had no other option than to close.
As businesses began to open up during the pandemic early 2021, Sessions announced a new restaurant: The Conservatory Speakeasy. At a media preview event, The Conservatory showed off its menu consisting of higher-end meals, including blackened Oregon snapper and New York strip steak, and a cocktail menu combining pop music references with well-crafted drinks. The venue and restaurant sold dinner and a show combination.
According to Session’s Instagram account, which was the first to announce its closing, the venue had more than 1,500 shows in its lifetime.
Among Session’s final shows are Sir Mix-a-lot on Sept. 1, Australian rock band Amyl and the Sniffers on Oct. 5 and singer/songwriter James McMurty on Oct. 18. The venue’s final concert is Oct. 25, featuring the Shovels and Rope folk duo.
For upcoming show information, visit SessionsMusicHall.com.
This article has been updated.