The Lunchbox has gotten a reprieve from its impending death sentence. Three weeks after announcing the local DIY music venue would be closing by month’s end, Lunchbox owner Danny Levie now says that the spot will remain open after all.
He announced the news in a post on July 19 to the venue’s Facebook page, which also explained how and why The Lunchbox was saved from closure. According to Levie, it was because of the intervention of a few members of the local music scene.
Levie cites Scot McKenzie – an experimental electronic musician, sound engineer, and promoter – as well as other unnamed individuals who offered financial and other support to The Lunchbox to allow it to stay open.
“Due to the incredible generosity of members of our music community and [Scot], I am honored and humbled to announce that the Lunchbox will remain open!!” Levie wrote.
Phoenix New Times was unable to speak with Levie about the matter, but reached out to McKenzie for comments on why he and others stepped in to help out The Lunchbox.
“I’d heard they were going to close it, and just didn’t want that to happen,” McKenzie says. “So, I got together with one of my friends, and he threw some money at it, and I’m going to throw some improvements at it, and we’re going to keep it going, or at least try to, anyway.”
McKenzie declined to identify his friend who’s investing in The Lunchbox, but says they’re both interested in helping out a struggling venue.
“There have been too many little venues that have gone away over the years, and we didn’t want that to happen with this place,” McKenzie says.
Willetta during an undated show at Lunchbox.
Levie originally announced on July 3 that he was planning to close The Lunchbox by month’s end due to financial reasons. The news came as a shock to many, as the venue has built a following in the scene and a reputation for genre-defying and boundary-pushing experimental music over the past three years.
After opening its original location as a tiny BYOB spot on 16th Street and Catalina Drive in 2016, Levie moved The Lunchbox to 40th Street and McDowell Road, and eventually obtained a beer and wine license. It’s become a place to see all manner of experimental and avant-garde shows of the rock and electronic variety, as well as a monthly drum ‘n’ bass night, Melt.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of places like The Lunchbox,” Levie told New Times earlier this month prior to news of the venue’s salvation. “The mission was to bring good music, under-the-radar and underground stuff, to Phoenix. So it was very important to me to create a space where it feels like a DIY spot. Because, honestly, a bar is the only way to make this kind of thing work.”
Levie experienced a few financial crunches with The Lunchbox, including needing to hold benefit shows last year and a GoFundMe drive. An aborted move to a new location in downtown and renovations to The Lunchbox’s current home on McDowell ate up more cash.
McKenzie thinks that The Lunchbox has everything required to be successful and just needed some help, financial or otherwise.
“I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t [take off],” McKenzie says. “Really, what it needed was a little bit of cash to keep it above ground, and it needed a few other things around the edges to get it sorted out. It needed a better sound system. It just needed a bit of sprucing up.”
McKenzie, who has installed and run sound at multiple local nightclubs, will provide The Lunchbox with a new sound system. He’s also planning to host upcoming editions of Der Bunker Teknobar, an experimental and underground electronic music night he promotes, at the venue.
McKenzie says he’s also putting the word out about The Lunchbox.
“I’ve got a lot of friends in the electronic [music] world that never even knew about this place before, so I’ve brought in a couple of those guys, and they’re going to start booking shows there, and we’ll start doing things there,” he says.
Anything to help The Lunchbox stick around.
“That’s just what happens with a lot of bars or DIY spaces: You get into it, you make it for a year or two, and then you hit kind of the make-or-break point. Either you’re going to the next stage or not,” McKenzie says. “Everybody loves [The Lunchbox], everybody always talks highly about it, and it was just a drag to see it about to go under. So we wanted to keep that from happening.”
Benjamin Leatherman is the clubs editor at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.