Update: Sonar closes; status of upcoming shows is unclear
Sonar has shut don, effective immediately, said acting general manager Daniel McIntosh.
The end of the club, a fixture downtown for over a decade, is the result of a business dispute between McIntosh, his partners and Sonar founder Lonnie Fisher.
A show by Talib Kweli, which was scheduled for Wednesday night, has been cancelled. The fate of all upcoming shows is unclear, McIntosh said. The club's booking agents are trying to reschedule the appearances, which included, among others, Odd Future.
Update: The Talib Kweli show scheduled for Wednesday night has been moved to Bourbon Street, the rapper tweeted. Pre-purchased tickets will be honored.
McIntosh did not know if tickets that have already been purchased for future shows will be refunded, nor if the club's owners and investors will resolve their differences.
"With a shutdown, it's kind of hard to know what's going to happen at all," McIntosh said. "We have no idea what's going to happen."
The club's liquor license expired on May 1, according to the Baltimore Liquor Board. The application for a renewal should have been filed by April 1, or by late deadline April 30.
News of the club's shutdown first appeared on Facebook, where a status update posted late afternoon read, "We here at Sonar regret to inform you that we are no longer able to operate as a venue."
The update went on to suggest that Fisher, who is now the executive director of the Baltimore Grand Prix, refused to renew the liquor license this year, and as a result effectively shut down the club.
McIntosh, who said he's been the club's acting manager for a year, said the club's account, which included money from ticket sales, is now exhausted from paying taxes.
Without a liquor license, he suggested, the club can't make any money to pay headliners. "There's no way you can pay them," he said. "All the ticket money went to paying taxes."
While the liquor board confirmed that Sonar is not on a list of bars and restaurants whose license renewals are on hold because of overdue sales taxes, it is possible that's because a renewal application was never filed before the April 1 deadline, said liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman.
Fisher, who opened Sonar in 2001, disputed his involvement in the club's end. He said he sold the business in 2007, and the rest of his remaining shares in 2009. "The check writing and full stewardship of the business was handed over in 2007," he said.
But McIntosh said that the sale, to a corporation where he's a partner named 407 Saratoga Inc., was never made official because the club was not tax-compliant. Fisher also disputes this. The bar's liquor license was unavailable when the closing news was posted on Facebook.
Fisher said he has tried to get the new owners of the club to remove his name from the liquor license for the past two years, but that he has been unsuccessful. He said that he has kept his name on it until this year because of a timing issue and because he was reluctant to shut down a club he founded.
"When it came down to renew the license, I wasn't going to sign up for a business that I haven't owned since 2009," he said. "For some reason, they have not renewed it." He said he has no plans to go to court unless McIntosh continues "slandering him."
McIntosh said he wants to keep the club alive, but that his partners will likely want to "wash their hands" of it. While he's been in contact with Fisher's attorney, he doesn't know if they will face off in court.
"I have no idea if we'll go to court, but I guarantee it," he said. "There's no way we won't sue each other over this."
By late Wednesday afternoon, #sonar, #sonar_baltimore, @realtalibkweli, and even #lonnie trended on twitter.
Across social media, fans mourned the passing of a club that had hosted major independent acts over the years, including, most recently, Wu-Tang Clan.
This post has been updated since it was originally published Wednesday afternoon. Clarification: the deadline to file a renewal application is April 1, after which a daily late fee applies. The late deadline is April 30, the last day before licenses expire for the previous year.