Before the Acheron opened on a quiet block in heavily-industrial East Williamsburg back in 2010, the building was little more than a “black box” housing a barebones ska venue, as owner Bill Dozer remembers it. Within two weeks of signing the lease and taking over the place, it was transformed into a punk and metal show space, a speakeasy-style DIY operation with cheap cans of beer, the occasional “plastic handle of liquor,” and a remarkable sound system with a bar next door. “We were able to get off the ground with basically nothing— just a bunch of sweat and, like, four people working there,” Dozer recalled.
Over the years, the Acheron has grown into the de facto homebase of Brooklyn punk, which has made something of a comeback itself as the venue expanded and went legit, welcoming in local acts and touring bands from across the country to play everything from straightedge punk to psych metal. But as of July 9, the East Williamsburg venue is putting all that to rest when they close their doors for good.
Yesterday, the Acheron announced on Facebook that they were closing their doors for good on July 9:
“It is with a profoundly heavy heart that we have to announce July 9th will be the last show at the Acheron. As a result of numerous factors that are completely out of our control, the space can no longer be used for shows. The Anchored Inn will remain open, doing the glorious work of keeping the punks fed and drunk. We are endlessly grateful to all of our staff, along with (almost) every band and show-goer that has ever walked through these doors. When we started 6 years ago I don’t think any of us imagined the Acheron would have grown into what it is now, and we feel very proud of all that we accomplished in that time. It has been a pleasure, and we mean that from the bottom of our hearts.”
This time around, it wasn’t the landlords who were responsible. We spoke with Bill Dozer (he co-owns the space along with Dan Oestreich) today who dismissed the situation as “just kind of boring,” but explained that it had to do with the venue’s insurance. “There were some issues with our insurance company and we can no longer afford to do it,” he said. “It’s like the cost of doing business in New York City kind-of thing.”
Dozer found out just two weeks ago that they would have to pull the plug. They’d been having “problems” with the company for a while, but he was holding out for a resolution. “We were hoping we could stay open through October or something, so that we could have a nice summer and really plan some great last shows and go out with a bang and it was like, ‘Nope, you’ve got three weeks.’”
The death sentence has been a little hard to swallow, especially since the Acheron was doing relatively well for a venue of its kind. “It’s really hard to run a small venue in New York City if you’re not Bowery Presents or Live Nation or something like that and you don’t have lawyers and huge amounts of money behind you,” he explained. “Your profit margin’s already very, very small— it can easily get whittled away, and all of a sudden it costs more to stay open than it does to close down.”
He compared the situation to what went down at the Grand Victory, a Williamsburg venue that’s also set to close in July. But in the Acheron’s case, they have a “good relationship” with the landlords, which means the Anchored Inn, co-owned by Carmen Mello (Dozer’s wife), and Adrienne Dowd, will stay open (and therefore the “Carmen Fries” will keep on sizzlin’). They’ll even get to hold on to the Acheron space too, which they’re planning to revamp and make into an extension of the bar. “It will still be a place for all the punks to hang out,” Dozer said. But, really, there won’t even be one secret show a week or something? Apparently, no way. They’ll be ripping out the PA, the stage, and even the backup bar.
The closure’s gonna put a big ol’ hole in the Brooklyn punk scene’s heart too. When Dozer moved to the city from Portland, Oregon a decade ago, he recalled arriving to a place where there wasn’t much going on in the way of punk shows. “For the most part, it was just Ralphy from Disassociate holding the whole scene on his shoulders,” he recalled. “He’s got very big shoulders, but he was only one guy.”
But Dozer started booking shows and things slowly picked up. Brooklyn Vegan covered the first big show at the Acheron, featuring La Dispute and Trash Talk, and praised the venue for “a respectable PA, and plenty of space to fit 100+” and aside from “moshpit dudes in fitted mouthpieces,” they had a great time. “It’s nice to see that metal has a new and legitimately great place to play,” they concluded. (The first show, Dozer noted, featured Wizardry and another band whose members went on to form Future Punx.)
Looking back, Dozer was at the start of something really great.”I’ve been lucky in that the kids who were young when I first moved here, are now much older and they have a real drive and a real sense of community,” he said. Those same “kids” grew up (well, sorta) and organized New York’s Alright, the annual showcase of the city’s most depraved bands, and the Don Pedro scene.
Instead of closing up shop entirely, Dozer hopes to continue booking shows elsewhere. “We’re going to be turning into a promotion company, much in the way that Ric [Leichtung of AdHoc] did after 285 Kent closed,” he said. “We’re looking at other places, but still keeping the Anchored Inn as our home base.”
The Acheron hasn’t announced their final show lineup just yet, but keep your ear to the ground. Dozer said the announcement regarding the last slew of bands should arrive within the “next couple of days” and hinted that they’ll be doing “a lot of benefits” including one to benefit the family of Brandon Ferrell, a friend of the venue and “intensely prolific” musician (Municipal Waste, Reason of Insanity), who recently died unexpectedly. “Mostly, it’s gonna be our close friends, the local punk bands, and some people coming in from out of town for their last chance to see a show here,” he said.