Luthier’s Co-op looks for a lifeline, launches GoFundMe to pay off debts

  • Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steven Baer, an owner of Luthier’s, on the empty stage last week. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steven Baer, an owner of Luthier’s, on the empty stage last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steven Baer, an owner of Luthier’s, on the empty stage Wednesday evening. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2020 4:28:19 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Swimming in debt, Luthier’s Co-op is hoping the community will throw it a lifeline.

The Cottage Street establishment, which bills itself as the “World’s First Full-Service Guitar Bar,” hasn’t sold a drink since the pandemic began in March. To stay afloat, its owners recently launched a GoFundMe page to pay off the debts it has accumulated during the pandemic, and to keep the business alive in anticipation of a restructuring and relaunch of the business.

“I’m pretty humbled with how many shares its gotten and how much has been raised in a short period of time,” said Steven Baer, who owns Luthier’s with his parents.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Luthier’s, which serves as a combined music shop, performance venue and bar, had raised nearly $8,000 of a $40,000 goal.

Luthier’s was founded in 2004 by Frank Lucchesi and Ron Midget as a stringed instrument shop. Baer bought Luthier’s in 2008 alongside Jane Hamel and Shane Loiselle, who are no longer involved with the business.

The bar and performance venue were both added to Luthier’s in 2012, and a kitchen and a second bar were added in 2017.

Samantha McDonough was the bar manager at Luthier’s until COVID-19 forced the bar and performance venue to close, though the shop’s fretted instrument repair and sales portion remain open.

“I’m still very much attached to the business,” McDonough said.

McDonough started working at Luthier’s just over two years ago, and she said that the people she’s met there have become a part of her life.

“It’s a good place to have another home,” said McDonough, who added that it would be sad to not be able to return to it.

And while McDonough did not write and is not managing the GoFundMe, she has been sharing it on Facebook.

“There’s been a great community support so far,” she said. “I know most of the names on the donor list.”

McDonough and Baer both noted the debts that the business has accumulated, from sources that include rent, liquor liabilities and utilities.

“The bills keep rolling in,” Baer said.

He said that he and his family were reluctant to launch the GoFundMe, but that it was done to give the new business plan “a fighting chance of working.”

Baer said that the hope is to reopen under the new business plan in mid-January. The plan will consist of grab-and-go food, coffee drinks and cocktails during the day, and renting out rooms to private groups at night.

The private rentals would be limited to nine people, and would be available in a choice of two rooms. They would also include a single employee per room, and food and drink would be available.

“People can’t just walk in off the street,” he said.

In speaking about the rentals, Baer noted the importance of social interaction.

“I think there are ways to do it safely,” he said. “It makes sense to do it with people within your circles.”

The musical instrument portion of the business will remain as part of the new business plan.

Baer said that, should the GoFundMe not be a success, they’ll still press forward with the plan. However, he said that would mean doing so with quite a bit of debt, and that this would compromise the ability of the business to keep going.

“I don’t see a future at Luthier’s without strong community support,” said McDonough.

Both Baer and McDonough also pointed to the setting up of food service as a major expense.

Baer said that he could see bringing back four to five employees of Luthier’s, but that the approximately 10 that worked there prior to the pandemic, not counting himself, wouldn’t be able to return until a vaccine is available and the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

However, Baer said that only a few of Luthier’s employees relied on it as their sole source of income. As such, he said that he would like to offer those employees their jobs back first.

A GoFundMe, launched in March by Baer and McDonough raised more than $5,000 for former employees of the business.

“That was solely for the staff,” said Baer.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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