Music to Your Ears
By Laura Marrich
Say Goodnight to Sonny's Bar & Grill--I just got a very heartfelt e-mail from local musician Chris Valencia that opens with the following: "On Sunday, Oct. 15, Sonny’s Bar & Grill will be closing its doors for good." Uh ... what? "After recent pressure from APD, the mayor and his effort to transform our neighborhood into the next Scottsdale, management has decided to sell their interests and move to Colorado." Oh, OK. ... Wait, what?
Michelle Robbins, co-owner of Sonny's along with husband Matthew (the son of Sonny) confirms the rumor. "We've always tried to follow the rules," she explains. In the 17 years Sonny's has been in operation, the bar hasn't gotten a single violation ... at least it hadn't until July 4 of this year. They've gotten slammed with three in just a few months, one for a "commercial gambling" that resulted in the arrest of a pool tournament organizer. (Michelle says pool tournaments are fairly commonplace in bars with pool tables, like Sonny's.) Through a spate of sting operations, Michelle says the police have taken an awful lot of interest in Sonny's all of a sudden. "Maybe we don't fit in with the area anymore," she says, citing the arrival of pricey new condos and new businesses within the neighborhood. "We loved it here, but maybe it's time to look for something a little quieter."
Chris Valencia isn't happy about it. "Along with providing a venue for local and national acts to perform, Sonny's was the last place in town that actually pays the band what they deserve." Chris has played drums at Sonny's for the past eight years in bands like Q's Revenge, George W. & the Evildoers and The Rod Shot Band. He says it wasn't uncommon to get paid $350 or more for a single night's performance. "We thought we were being competitive!" Michelle says, after hearing what the going rate for bands can be Downtown. "Well, it was always a family thing, as far as the local bands went."
On Friday the 13th, Sonny's is throwing its last show. The lineup is flush with Sonny's regulars, including Chris' projects (The Rod Shot Band, Q's Revenge, and George W. & the Evildoers), plus The Sleestaks, The Jasper Brown Band and others. The show is free and goes from 8 p.m. until two past Saturday. Michelle and her husband will start packing up the place the following day. "R.I.P., Sonny’s," as Chris says. "We'll miss you."
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-