ONCE Somerville will close for at least the month of August after a series of financial setbacks including a “bookkeeper failure,” some show cancellations, and a robbery, according to owner JJ Gonson.
“The robbery was almost like we were already sitting on the edge of a precipice, and it was like the wind blew,” Gonson says.
The venue will close for August, and hopes to reopen in the fall. Gonson’s goal is September, but she explains that it’s hard to predict whether that will be possible. Gonson and her team are working to develop a plan over the coming weeks that will allow the music venue to survive.
“People call it a ‘reboot’—to evaluate what is working, what isn’t working, and to create a scenario that can sustain the venue,” Gonson says. “It exists, the scenario exists, there is no question in anybody’s mind that that scenario exists. The problem is that while the scenario exists, Rome can never be built in a day. We’ve been working on rebuilding and figuring things out, and we’ve identified a lot of things that need to be done.”
A change that will be made during the reboot, for example, is installing a soda gun at the bar instead of using individual soda cans, which are much more expensive.
A local radio host started a GoFundMe page for the venue after learning about the May robbery. The fundraiser has brought in over $20,000 for ONCE, but Gonson explains that they haven’t taken in the money yet.
“The GoFundMe that was set up in an emergency situation will remain untouched until such time as we have designated a clear and specific use for the donations,” a statement from ONCE reads. “Broadly, the money will be exclusively used to keep ONCE open. But we want our donors to have the specifics about for what exact purpose the money will be used, and we want to emphasize that donors always have the option of a refund if in any way they feel the cause they thought they donated to is different from the decision made.”
To support ONCE going forward, Gonson says that people can donate to or share the GoFundMe or purchase tickets now for the fall.
She emphasizes that ONCE has seen an outpouring of support as she’s shared the news of its uncertain future.
“The response I got is people saying ONCE is important to us, and if there’s problems and we can help, we want to help you, we want to keep this place open because we want to keep seeing shows here, we like the sound, we like the vibe, we like when our friends hang out, all these things,” Gonson says.