The marquee at Port City Music Hall offered words of encouragement in April. The venue announced its permanent closure Wednesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland music venue Port City Music Hall has permanently closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Live music venues were the first businesses to close at the start of the pandemic, and we’ll be the last to reopen. Port City Music Hall unfortunately cannot survive this crisis without revenue – and no end in sight,” said Lauren Wayne, who is the general manager for the parent company that owns both Port City and the State Theatre and and books shows for Thompson’s Point in Portland.

The Congress Street venue, with a 550-person capacity, has been open eight years. Wayne listed Maggie Rogers, Ghost of Paul Revere, Lucius and Rustic Overtones among the notable acts it has hosted.

Wayne said Port City usually held about 15 to 20 shows a month. When it and the State Theatre had to close in March due to rules intended to limit the spread of the virus, she said, the company had to lay off “close to” 150 people.

“Sadly, if there isn’t some industry-targeted relief soon we will not be the last venue to close its doors in Maine,” Wayne said.

Congress is considering three bills that directly or indirectly impact concert presenters, some of whom also say an extension and refinement of the Paycheck Protection Program and unemployment benefits would provide crucial and timely financial help.


Wayne said one of the owners of the parent company of the State Theatre and Port City is also a co-owner of the State Theatre building. That meant that the State Theatre operation got some rent relief in recent months, she said, and gives her confidence that the State Theatre will stay in business, although she said that she doesn’t expect to book any shows there before early next year.

State rules sharply limit the size of indoor gatherings and require physical distancing that make it virtually impossible for indoor concerts to take place. Wayne said she and her company support the rules and she said there are almost no acts touring now for venues to book anyway.

“We’re in the middle of the worst pandemic that the world has ever seen,” she said.

Dave Gutter, one of the founders of the Maine band Rustic Overtones, said Port City was a great venue for rising bands.

“It’s a great little performance venue for your favorite band that’s going to be too big to see next year,” said Gutter, the songwriter, lead singer and guitarist for the band.

Port City’s acoustics and equipment was top-notch, he said, and for bands, that meant they could concentrate on putting on a good performance.

“This was a venue for precision and really trying to create a perfect moment,” he said.

Port City posted the announcement of its closing on its Facebook page and dozens of people replied with messages bemoaning the decision.

“This is devastating! My favorite place to see a show,” said Karen Lucas.

“This sucks – soooo many great shows I have seen there!!!!,” agreed Janice Albert of Freeport. “I hate what our new normal is starting to look like.”

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