DES MOINES, Iowa — Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines is closing its doors for good due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it was the perfect music venue to play at because the stage wasn’t very tall. It was only about two and a half feet off the ground, so you felt like the audience was right on top of you. For a musician, that’s a really magical experience to be able to connect that closely to your audience,” said Patrick Tape Fleming of the band Gloom Balloon. He has played at Vaudeville Mews more than 200 times.
Due to COVID-19, Vaudeville Mews, located downtown, hasn’t had a show since March.
“Music is the most dangerous place for COVID, along with bars. These are where people are spreading breaths back and forth. We didn’t want to do separated chairs … it didn’t make sense,” Vaudeville Mews owner Amedeo Rossi said.
Other music venues in Des Moines are operating at a fraction of their full capacity, but Rossi said if he did that, he would still be losing money.
“To open up for shows and operate at 25% or 50% capacity, it just isn’t an option. It just creates a bigger debt than not being open,” Rossi said.
Vaudeville Mews had a capacity of 230 people.
“The space was wonderful. It had 18-foot ceilings, and we had curtains that kind of blocked things. We had great sound,” Rossi said.
“It was also a great place to watch a show. If you went upstairs and sat in those front seats, you felt like you were on top of the band,” Fleming said.
Vaudeville Mews opened in 2002 and had shows almost every night of the week.
“When the Mews started here downtown, there was not much culturally in this area and this was sort of a torchbearer for the music scene,” Vaudeville Mews manager Derek Muse Lambert said.
Muse Lambert worked there for 13 years and said the venue was not only a home for him but for a wide variety of people.
“It had that diversity in that way to where you could see well-established, world-renowned acts or some high school band playing the first show. We gave a lot of people chances to develop here,” Muse Lambert said.
“It’s going to be missed. I don’t know if we’ll really realize the impact until COVID kind of cools down and live music starts again,” Fleming said.
Rossi also owns a bar down the street from the venue called The Lift. It has also been closed since March, but Rossi plans to open it safely in the near future.