Jamie Schectman, owner of the T-Bar Social Club in June Lake, California, is planning his next move to re-open his music venue after the COVID pandemic. The Mono County venue in the Eastern Sierra near Mammoth Lakes opens for the summer season on April 16, unveiling its new beer garden. It will open daily at 11 a.m., serving slices of June Pie New York-style pizza. The following is an interview between music producer Schectman and Jon Siembieda of Tahoe Onstage.
Jon: What changes will be made with your concert programming and business model?
Jamie: We are repositioning the concert series as more of an upscale and exclusive experience. This will be especially important when we initially begin hosting music again with a limited capacity.
Jon: Can you elaborate?
Jamie: Let’s look at the ski industry this winter as a case study. At nearby Mammoth Mountain, lift tickets were going for $219 on Saturdays, with a limited capacity available and selling out. (For reference, last year I think the highest lift tickets ever were $189.) After a year (and counting), there is no doubt the demand for high caliber live music will be stronger than ever.
On the supply side, many small venues have sadly already gone out of business. Luckily, we have the pizzeria upstairs, which saved us.
Coming out of a global pandemic is going to be the ultimate reset button for many businesses. We think this offers us a unique opportunity to change up our model. We will be booking even bigger acts than before, some of those you might see at 1,000 and up sized venues. As anyone who has been to one of our previous shows knows, our venue has a superior sound quality and is best-in-class for its size. Additionally, we are investing in some additional lighting and other stage enhancements to further enhance the production. So, I’m optimistic that repositioning our concerts as more of a premium product will be well received. And if I’m wrong, those that attend will have an even more private concert.
Jon: How will you navigate getting fans into an intimate venue right after the pandemic? Will there be any requirements, like temperature checks or testing?
‘I say that it is an individual and personal decision, but so is operating a small business. And the band survey responses clearly support our direction.’
of the T-Bar Social Club
Jamie: We are actually taking an even more proactive stance and requiring vaccinations for all attendees. Our whole staff has already been fully vaccinated and it is mandatory for employment. Since I believe the science, the only thing that ends pandemics are when the vast majority of the population gets vaccinated. And looking at the results of Israel’s vaccination rollout is really promising that getting jabbed greatly reduces transmission and serious infection. As a small business owner, I feel like we can push (jab) the needle a bit.
Jon: You’re taking a strong stance on this. Do you have any feedback about how the musical ecosystem will respond to this?
Jamie: As a matter of fact, I do. We just conducted a survey of 55 bands that have performed at our venue. Roughly 78 percent of the respondents said everyone in their band would vaccinate as soon as it is available. And a weighted average of 3.6 (out of 5) felt it was important that everyone in attendance was vaccinated.
Jon: What do you say to the potential attendees that don’t want to get a vaccine?
Jamie: I say that it is an individual and personal decision, but so is operating a small business. And the band survey responses clearly support our direction. For us, it’s a no brainer. We will of course continue to live stream all of our shows, with the audio professionally mixed through the sound system, for those who chose not to vaccinate.
Jon: How will you check for vaccines?
Jamie: A system/app will undoubtedly be developed that we can utilize. I just read New York state is unrolling a type of digital vaccine passport for phones.
I want everyone who enters each show to feel safe and know they are among friends. A T-Bar show will be known as a place where people can hug freely again and not worry if they are going to end up in the hospital, on a ventilator, or worse.
Jon: Will vaccines be required during regular business hours?
Jamie: No, only for the concerts. There will be a deep cleaning and disinfectant process after table service and before we open the doors for each show.
Jon: Will Jesse Dunn still be the talent buyer for the club?
Jamie: Yes, absolutely. Jesse has been an integral part of our success and establishing ourselves are the premier small club in the region.
Jon: Are you starting to book out shows for a post-pandemic future?
Jamie: Yes, we are cautiously optimistic that we aren’t too far out from hosting indoor shows. We have The Sextones for our 3rd anniversary Halloween Bash on October 30, Jelly Bread for the upcoming New Year’s and International Reggae Legend Pato Banton for 420 Celebration in 2022.
We are in discussions with some big talents but it would be premature to disclose. Our goal coming out of the pandemic is to continue to punch way above our weight for a venue of our size.
Jon: How’s your area doing with COVID?
Jamie: We are currently in the Red Tier. But more exciting, Mono County is leading the state with 40 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated and something like 65 percent have had at least one dose.
Jon: What is your timeline?
Jamie: The T-Bar is planning to reopen on April 16.. We don’t know about public concerts, yet, of course. But we are putting our ducks in a row so when we get the green light, we can pull the trigger without much lead time.
In the meantime, we have been hosting the occasional band who wants to get back in the swing of things and do a live stream from our stage.
Jon: Any other final thoughts you’d like to share?
Jamie: After more than a year without live music, I know fellow concert goers are more than ready to recharge their souls. Some have predicted that we are about to embark upon a modern day “Roaring 20s.” As a “Social Club,” we are excited to put the ‘Rona behind us and rock into the future.
To keep up to date with the T-Bar, please visit www.tbarsocialclub.com.
— Jon Siembieda