NASHUA — Studio 99, one of downtown Nashua’s core venues for live music, closed its doors Wednesday , facing a combination of financial problems and difficulties related to its location.
One of the main contributors to Studio 99′s closure, owner Elise MacDonald said in a phone interview Friday afternoon, was the harassment her patrons received from drunken individuals passing the venue at 17 Factory St.
“We had to put film on our windows because kids literally dropped their pants and mooned us,” she said. “That happened more than once.”
Other incidents included banging on the venue’s large glass windows and screaming at the performers and audience from the sidewalk.
MacDonald informed the police about these issues, as well as several aldermen.
“The problem with Factory Street is that it has just little enough traffic that it’s possible for people to pull stunts like that and feel like they’re not going to be seen by anyone who could identify them,” she said.
Financial difficulties rounded out the rest of the factors in MacDonald’s decision to close Studio 99, with high rent, insurance payments and payments to performance rights organizations taking their toll.
Studio 99, a listening-room-style venue designed to allow audiences to focus on music without other distractions, brought a variety of acts to Nashua, including Boston-based female Celtic roots quartet Long Time Courting and performers from the N.H. Jazz series.
The venue’s location, however, made patrons “sitting ducks” for disruptive incidents, MacDonald said, noting that the Arena Sportsbar and Nightclub is diagonally across from Studio 99.
Patrons of local bars also contributed to the difficulties, she said, with people generally “drunk and disorderly on the street.”
“Nashua’s really hitched its wagon to this severely alcohol- fueled nightlife,” MacDonald said. “It’s become really routine.”
The nearby High Street Garage has posed a challenge, as well.
“That’s gotten pretty rowdy in the last couple of months,” she said. “A lot of screaming and fights going on.”
Some patrons toughed it out, but others found the situation unsettling.
“They scared away some folks permanently, unfortunately,” MacDonald said, adding that negative publicity travels quickly.
When MacDonald brought her completed 2012 tax return to her accountant, it became clear that the writing was on the wall for Studio 99.
“She just basically said, ‘You just can’t keep doing this,?’” MacDonald said.
Payments to performance rights organizations such as the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers posed a particular financial challenge to Studio 99 because of the organizations’ tiered payment systems.
With ASCAP’s system, the lowest tier available is for venues that can accommodate 1,000 people or fewer. By comparison, the Edmund M. Keefe Auditorium in Nashua, one of the largest concert halls in the state, seats about 1,500 people. Studio 99 seats about 100.
“We’re paying proportionately at a much higher level than what we’re able to fit into the venue,” MacDonald said.
Jonathan Lorentz, who has worked with MacDonald to bring the N.H. Jazz series to Studio 99, said he was disappointed to see the venue close.
“It’s sad,” he said. “They have something very special there, because it’s a focused listening experience.”
Lorentz also witnessed some of the disruptions from intoxicated passersby.
“I definitely caught a little bit of that when I was there,” he said, noting that some of the performers who were interrupted were globally known, even Grammy winners.
Now that Studio 99 has closed, Lorentz is looking for a venue in Nashua or Manchester to host the N.H. Jazz series.
“We’ve developed a decent following of music fans that are really eager to come out and hear live jazz,” he said. “The thing was just starting to catch on in Nashua.”
Arrangements are being made for some of the events that originated at Studio 99 to continue at other locations without the Studio 99 affiliation.
Mike Loce, the director of the ukulele club, has a strong lead for an alternate location, MacDonald said. Piano karaoke, for which she plays the piano, is also likely to relocate.
“They definitely have concrete plans that are moving forward,” she said of the two groups.
Although Studio 99 is done as a corporate entity, MacDonald said she will continue to maintain the website at www.studio99nashua.com and the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Studio99Nashua for the benefit of those who found common ground at the venue.
“It’s definitely not just a performance venue. It’s a community of musicians,” she said, noting that many musicians connected through Studio 99′s monthly jam sessions.
Although MacDonald is coming to terms with Studio 99′s closure, she realizes it may take time for others to do the same.
“I’m definitely disappointed, but at the same time, I’ve had a lot of time to process it,” she said. “It’s the people around me who are really going through it right now.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services