Rhythm & Rye in downtown Oly searching for new location


Rhythm & Rye, a popular music venue and bar in downtown Olympia, has been temporarily closed since March. Now, its owner is on the hunt for a new location.

Owner Andy Geertsen, in an email to The JOLT News, said donations to his business on the crowd-funding website GoFundMe have been instrumental in keeping Rhythm & Rye alive in its dormant state, rather than permanently closing.

“Without that fund we would have been done months ago. I can’t thank our supporters enough for coming together to help in any way they could. The community is our heart and soul. Those donations also helped support my employees and myself before unemployment was implemented,” Geertsen wrote.

Geertsen started the fund in March after temporarily closing, to cover expenses. The goal was to raise $40,000. As of Wednesday, the fund had drawn in a total of $42,995. In a post earlier this month on Rhythm & Rye’s Facebook page, Geertsen wrote that rising rent costs and uncertainty of when live music can resume has made the current building untenable to hold onto.

After six years of operation at 311 Capitol Way North, Geertsen said he’s planning to move to a new address that will be more cost-effective. It’s not certain yet where that new building will be.

“I have looked into several buildings in downtown. It seems there may be a couple of options but cost is really going to determine those next steps,” he wrote in an email.

“I have been actively working on a solution and exploring options since March. The timeline for our industry will be determined by how well we can deal with this virus. If we move to a new space we will have to find creative ways to pay the rent until capacity can be reached again,” he wrote.

The challenges Rhythm & Rye faces are reminiscent of the plight independent music venues face across the nation. The very nature of the industry — people gathered together in close proximity, enjoying an act on a stage — doesn’t bode well with COVID-19-centric safety measures. In response to countless clubs finding themselves in dire straits, with no chance of steady revenue yet on the calendar, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has started a lobbying and letter writing campaign in support of Congressional support. Included in a proposed federal relief package is the #SaveOurStagesAct, which would provide relief funding to NIVA members.

The Washington Nightlife Music Association (WANMA) has worked to draw more attention to struggling independent venues, and the impact such businesses make on local industry.

“Venues won’t throw open their doors when stay-at-home orders are lifted. Tours are cancelled. It will take six months or more just to rebook artists. In the meantime, rents are still due. Taxes, loans, insurance, venue maintenance, and other financial obligations are piling up,” reads the WANMA website.

The night of the last show at Rhythm & Rye before lockdown Geersten felt a mixture of hope and doom.

“I remember thinking that this might be the last show for a while. I still held hope that the next couple nights of shows would still happen. Both would have been well attended,” he wrote in an email to The JOLT News.

Click here to visit the Rhythm & Rye GoFundMe page.


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