OLYMPIA - The days are numbered for a popular downtown loft venue known for hosting events and performing arts.
The Loft on Cherry will vacate its subleased space from the Fish Brewing Co. on Jefferson Street by the end of this month, ending its agreement with the brewery five months early, according to the business’s owner.
Tim Smith, who has owned and operated the Loft for more than two years, said the agreement was finalized late last week and that he is close to a new agreement with the Urban Onion Restaurant to move loft operations to the ballroom at the Olympia Hotel, the hotel lobby and the stage at the restaurant.
“What it boils down to for me is that I think it’s awesome that there’s a successful, prospering, growing brewery a block from the new City Hall and I’ve got alternatives that we can make viable for arts and music,” Smith said.
“At the end of the day, growth for the brewery is a good thing, and we all need to support each other.”
In a written release Monday, brewery CEO Sal Leone said the decision came down to what made best sense for the brewery’s growth. He said supporters of the Loft have falsely accused the brewery of unethical intentions and lack of support for the arts. He said the brewery is dedicated to the arts and recently created a new event coordinator position to help bring in more art, street fairs and movie showings.
“Fish Brewing Company is simply trying to find a long term home for its brewing operation that will accommodate its growing needs,” Leone said.
PRODUCTION TO INCREASE
The brewery’s production manager told The Olympian earlier this year of the company’s plans to increase production from 15,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels. In doing so, the brewery would need to grow vertically, knocking out the Loft’s floor in the process.
However, expansion and future use of the site are still up in the air.
The brewery, which in January said it would not renew its lease because of the controversy surrounding the Loft, is still without a lease, and no final decision has been made about the floor or expansion, according to the news release. The company is negotiating with Kolb Family Investments, which owns the property and has provided requirements in order to sign a new long-term lease, which if not met, will force the brewery to move, Leone stated.
Since the Loft’s new space won’t be as flexible or large as its current digs, organizers are also in conversation with the Eagles Club and The Olympia Center.
BUSY TRACK RECORD
In the past year, the Loft has hosted more than 75 community concerts and festivals, 30 weddings, 10 reunions, 25 retirement and anniversary parties, 15 educational lectures and workshops, and 27 nonprofit benefits, according to a Facebook posting by loft supporters called “Don’t Wreck the Loft.” In addition, the loft is home base to nine small businesses and 150 local musicians, artists, photographers, students and others.
And while he respects the uproar of opinions about the brewery expansion, Smith said he thinks it’s important that he continues to provide space for artists and musicians while supporting the brewery.
Loftapalooza, a rally to raise money for the Loft or to update the new space, which was scheduled for Saturday, has also been canceled.
Smith said the ballroom, which is half the size of the Loft but provides more capacity, needs some upgrades, including a stage, new lighting and ventilation, along with better acoustics.
As part of the agreement, the Loft will receive financial support from the brewery and the property owner for improvements and to find rehearsal space for any group displaced by the early move.
Smith said he’ll miss the “soul” of the creative space the Loft provided.
“I’m gonna miss the space as it exists as a space,” he said. “I get a lot of joy just walking through and being up there.”
Loft management plans to bring in moving trucks and boxes early this week.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/outsideoly