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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Don’t worry—I’m not going to make you call your elected officials. Not this time, anyway. More asks of the political variety will definitely be coming your way in the herculean and marathon effort to try and save our music venues from COVID-19 oblivion, but for now, all you need to do to show your support is something you’d do anyway: eat and drink.

Now that we’re on month seven (but who’s counting? Me. I’m counting and I can’t stop) of the long national nightmare that is pandemic life in the United States, I’ve finally begun the hard process of accepting that our music venues won’t reopen any minute now. In truth—at least on those days when I can face the truth—it’s more than likely some of them won’t reopen at all.

In the face of so much collateral damage and potential financial fallout, COVID-19 has a way of making us feel both overwhelmed and small. And while we may be the former, we certainly aren’t the latter. We can still make a big difference while there’s a big difference to be made, and we can do so while getting a hot meal and a cold beverage.

A fair number of the places that used to regularly host live music are either food purveyors first and music venues second, or they’ve ramped up their food programs in order to try and keep the drain on their financial coffers down to a mere trickle. Either way, every meal or cocktail—or both—we order from these establishments acts as a tiny brick in the wall they’ll have to build between their venues and the effects of COVID in order to see the other side. So in lieu of the music that isn’t happening, let’s take a tour through what venues are offering these days.

Boundary Bay Brewery: When COVID hit the restaurant sector, Boundary Bay Brewery mama and guiding light Janet Lightner took a minute to take stock, and then she did what she does best—she got to work taking care of her staff and community through what has got to be the wildest time in the brewpub’s long history. The result has been expanded seating everywhere she can find a place for a socially distant table, a menu that now includes brunch and—glory be—cocktails, and, in keeping with her sense of making sure at least some things are still fun, she put the alley behind the brewery to excellent use. You can now drive through for weekly barbecue, fish fries and even the occasional slice of cake. Boundary is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and it’s not the yearlong party they were planning, but they’re making the most of it. It is, after all, the Boundary Bay way. Info:

Greene’s Corner: Greene’s Corner was never really a live music hub, but they definitely fall into the category of a place that didn’t have to host live music in order to draw people to their James Street space, but they welcomed it anyway. They’re another establishment that adapted quickly to reduced indoor dining requirements, transforming their lawn into a family-friendly beer garden that now offers study hours for distance learning. What they didn’t have to change was their menu of pizzas, sandwiches, breakfast items and more, every bit of it made from scratch (their pizzas get a lot of love, but they’ve got a breakfast burrito well worth getting out of bed for), along with a bottle shop, rotating tap list and even a freezer full of Acme ice cream, all of it available for dine-in or takeout. Info:

Honey Moon: Even sans live music, there’s something so delightful about hitting up the Honey Moon. First you have to meander your way down the alley behind Pepper Sisters (which has been feeding me the blue corn rellenos that sustain my pandemic existence) and then when you get there, the space is always welcoming and homey. These days, the action is out front on the patio where one of its expert bartenders will serve you up a glass of Honey Moon’s namesake mead—or one of the inventive cocktails for which they’ve also become known. Not only is Honey Moon dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 economy, but they’ve also incurred the costs of replacing two of their large front windows after they were smashed in separate incidents by people who I’d really like to have a face-to-face conversation with. I have a lot of pent-up frustration these days, but none of it is directed at the Honey Moon. Info:

Kulshan Brewing Co.: As everyone knows by now, I’m allergic to beer, which kept me from hanging out at Kulshan, except during those times when a musician or band I love happened to be playing the same night the Streat Food truck was parked outside. You’ll be happy to know Streat Food, and the other food trucks on Kulshan’s rotating roster, still park outside. However, you’ll be happier to know that one of the COVID concessions Kulshan has made has been to start Bellingham’s first CSB—Community Supported Beer. As they say, “It’s like a CSA box, minus the vegetables…filled with beer,” and it’s proof the pandemic is fomenting some real genius among local business owners. CSB members get a variety case of beer each month, information straight from head brewer Wes Finger, surprise merch and happy hour pricing at both of Kulshan’s beer gardens. Info:

Old World Deli: My love of Old World Deli is well-known at this point, not just for their food (but mainly for their food), but also because of how they do business. No one hustles harder than they do, and when COVID came, they hustled into overdrive, procuring yeast when it was hard to find, touting and expanding their array of grocery items—owner Anna Adams even personally delivered people’s goods to their homes. They now boast a to-go fridge full of items such as heat-and-eat macaroni and moussaka, house-made sausage and sous vide chicken, quarts of soup and even pimento cheese if you stop in on the right day. Through it all, the specials board has reigned supreme, and my once-faithful love of the porchetta sandwich has been sorely tested by their K-Pop Reuben. Info:

Shakedown: Like everyone who loves the Shakedown, my concern when music venues went dark ran deep—and like everyone who loves their falafel sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks (pictured), I wanted to know when they’d reopen their sister bar, the Racket, so I could support both them and my stomach at the same time. It took them a minute, but the Racket has reopened with its tried-and-true menu items intact, but now with 100 percent more to-go cocktails, which I have to say I’m very into. They’ll also sell you a tub of their excellent hummus to take home and have built out some pretty swanky-looking outdoor seating to accommodate their friends and fans. On a serious note, the Shakedown is one of the venues we can ill-afford to lose. It’s going to take a lot of falafel to keep them in business, so dig deep and pony up. It’ll be worth it in the long run. Info:

Stone’s Throw Brewery: Even though my beer allergy keeps me out of Stone’s Throw, one of the great summer joys of my life as a person who lives within walking distance of the Southside has been to take a stroll on a warm night past the Fairhaven microbrewery, where it has always looked and sounded like the world’s most laid back house party, complete with live music if I timed my walk right. The house party is still happening, even if the music is not, and while my walks now require me to mask up, it’s well worth the effort for the level of neighborly normalcy Stones Throw provides. Take a stroll and see for yourself—you’ll want to stay for one of their expertly brewed beers—or hard seltzer if they’re still pouring. Info:

Wild Buffalo: Real talk: There is no Bellingham music venue that takes up more real estate in my giant store of worry than the Wild Buffalo. All of our venues are precious, but with the greatest amount of square footage and overhead and the least amount of resources available (due in large part to Washington’s draconian and illogical liquor laws) to mitigate their COVID-19 financial losses, the Wild Buffalo’s situation truly is challenging if not downright dire. Even though it seems like they’ve been dark, biding their time and waiting things out, behind the scenes the trio of Wild Buffalo owners have been hard at work at the dual strategies of figuring out a way they can reopen while also trying to secure some form of financial aid from the government for them and everyone else in a similar position. As of very recently, they’ve got the first piece of that puzzle in place, and are now open Thurs.-Sun.—and they’ve got more than just cocktails to offer. They’ve set up their giant screen to broadcast sports, political debates and whatever else the public might like to watch, and That’s What I Like Island Grill is parked outside cooking up delicious Filipino food. If you’re going to drink yourself into a stupor while you watch politics play out, you might as well spend those dollars at the Buff. Info:

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