The Meatlocker — a small music venue in Montclair — plans to reopen this Friday after authorities shut down a show there May 12, which left the fate of the space up in the air last week.
The township’s police and fire department responded to the venue at 8 Park St. on May 12, Montclair Police Lt. David O’Dowd said. Eyewitnesses said authorities arrived around 10:30 p.m.
“The fire department was there, and basically they handle any overcrowding, checking the capacity of the building,” O’Dowd said on May 19. “Our vice unit handles alcohol and beverage control for the town, and that’s why they were there. There is an ongoing investigation. The fire department is no longer involved and now our vice unit is involved and they’re conducting an investigation.”
Planned shows at The Meatlocker were moved to different locations, but one mainstay at The Meatlocker, Dan Rivas, said the venue plans to open this weekend. The bands Dutchguts and Sunflower are scheduled to play there, according to a Facebook event page.
“We bring a lot of diversity to the town,” Rivas briefly said Tuesday at a benefit show for The Meatlocker at 10th Street Bar in Kenilworth. He added that The Meatlocker community has a lot of support from the town.
It was not immediately clear if police shut down the venue permanently or temporarily. A voicemail was left Monday for the landlord of the Meatlocker at 8 Park St., but it was not immediately returned. Several promoters declined to comment for this article too.
Dan Barrecchia — who plays guitar in the bands Shred Flinstone and Jean Pool — was at The Meatlocker May 12 when police and what he says was a fire marshal arrived. He said The Meatlocker’s promoters kept pushing back the start time of the show.
“I showed up at 10 and usually the music starts at 10,” Barrechia said. “And then it got to like 10:30. The music still didn’t start yet because the restaurant upstairs was still open. I guess they said they were going to close at 10, but they were having some grand opening.”
One of the owners of Punto Rosso Ristorante, a new Italian restaurant above The Meatlocker at 6 Park St., said he did not call the police on May 12. He knew the of The Meatlocker before deciding to open a restaurant there, he said.
“We had no problem with them,” said Ryan Vargo, a co-owner of the restaurant. “We had an agreement: They started playing after 10:30 when we closed and that was fine with us. Nothing ever warranted having to call the police, for sure. We did not call the police at all.”
Vargo said he used to deejay in New York City and ran a venue known as System Dance Club in Astoria, Queens for about 10 years. He noted that his business partner is a musician too.
“I know exactly what they’re coming from,” he said, referring to The Meatlocker community. “I’m not an old guy, and I don’t bust up parties because sometimes, we all have fun ourselves. So, that’s not me nor my partner’s motive for anybody. We want to coexist with everybody.”
Barrecchia said there were about 35 people at The Meatlocker when he attended May 12. The bands Entia, Glazer, Chanel63 and Evl Mommz were scheduled to play that night, the event’s Facebook page said.
Barrecchia said police told everyone to leave that night, but was unsure if The Meatlocker was closed permanently. “It wasn’t a big show, and it wasn’t loud. It was very quiet. It didn’t even start yet,” he said.
He added that police began questioning a person at the venue, asking if they were charging people at the door.
“I tried to talk to them,” Barrecchia said, referring to the police. “I was like, ‘Listen, they’re donations at the door, they’re not charging anyone. Everyone is willing to give them 10 dollars.’”
A private community on Facebook was created after May 12, where hundreds of people shared their fondest memories at the underground venue and expressed the impact The Meatlocker community has had on their lives.
David Long’s New Brunswick-based band, Living Tradition, has played at The Meatlocker at least twice. He told Speak Into My Good Eye via Facebook messenger that playing there is like a “rite of passage.”
“If you play in a band in New Jersey, you have to play at The Meatlocker at least once, almost like a rite of passage,” Long said. “Everyone involved with music in NJ knows about it. It’s one of the most punk/dive venues I’ve ever been to. At first glance it looks gross but it gives off such a punk aesthetic that makes it pretty rad.”
Louis Nicastro, 25, said he’s been going to The Meatlocker since he was in high school. His most memorable experience about The Meatlocker was all the charity events, including Toys for Tots where “entry is by toy.”
“That’s the part people don’t talk about,” Nicastro said on May 18. “That’s the part they fail to acknowledge: that a lot of good has come out of that basement. They don’t talk about the benefit shows for kids who committed suicide, or kids that went to The Meatlocker who died, who had a disease, who died in a car wreck or whatever. A lot of that shit went down to pay for people’s funerals.”
Nicastro, of Union, also said the space has closed for brief periods in the past, but didn’t know the cause.
“If it’s closed, I’m going to be really grieving because you will never see — in 2017’s America — you will never see another spot like that open up.”