Burlington’s most-legendary music venue has new owners who plan to keep the tunes, bar and food going strong while expanding the behind-the-scenes business operations.
Nectar’s began its first day under new ownership July 26, when managing partner Ed Maier was at the Main Street venue to greet customers. He said the ownership group includes silent partners he declined to identify. The sale includes the affiliated upstairs venue known as Club Metronome.
“I’m a huge music fan as well as being in the industry,” Maier said. “I have the right group of people that came together to make this happen.”
The group bought Nectar’s from Noel Donnellan, Chris Walsh, Jason Gelrud and Peter Picard. Walsh was part of the team that bought the business from founder Nectar Rorris in 2003. Rorris started Nectar’s in 1975.
Nectar’s has been for sale for years. Maier said he first talked with Walsh about a possible purchase in August 2019.
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Nectar’s is known nationally as the place that gave the jam-rock band Phish the jump start on a career that still has the foursome selling out arenas and outdoor amphitheaters almost 40 years later. Phish, in fact, was what drew Maier to move to Vermont in 1994. He said he’s seen the band about 400 times, with most of those shows coming in the 1990s.
“It can’t be any more legendary,” Maier said of Nectar’s. “There’s not a lot of bands that have venues that (are) their little mecca, their home base.”
Nectar’s Presents expands duties
Another musical act fitting that bill, Maier said, is Bruce Springsteen, who’s closely associated with The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Maier has worked at The Stone Pony and other music spaces in New Jersey. He is a longtime concert promoter and talent buyer who founded a company called ElmThree Productions. (Talent buyers find and book acts for concert venues.)
Maier is drawing on that background and the recognizable Nectar’s brand for the next step in Nectar’s evolution. Nectar’s Presents, the arm of Nectar’s that has presented off-site events in Vermont and elsewhere, will work with emerging musicians and promote musical acts in venues in multiple states.
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Those who will take part with Maier in Nectar’s Presents include:
- Matt Kolinski, founder of Omni Arts Group
- Brett Fairbrother, former manager of the bands Strangefolk and RAQ, who will be the talent buyer who books shows at Nectar’s
- Ian Miller of the music-management group AFT Artists.
“I gave up my company to be here as well as some of my partners gave up their companies to be here” with Nectar’s Presents, Maier said.
The talent-management arm under Nectar’s Presents will be known as APON Artists and includes musicians from the Omni and AFT rosters. Touring acts including Goose, Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads and Joe Samba will now be represented by APON.
“I felt that Nectar’s was the right brand and the right thing to house everything,” Maier said. “This is the new home base.”
Podcast studio, possible lunch hours
Maier was drawn to Nectar’s in part because the venue is so well-known. T-shirts touting Nectar’s can be seen on people in places as far flung as San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado, he said.
“It’s a national brand already,” according to Maier. “It’s easier to expand when you have such history behind you.”
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Regular visitors to Nectar’s might notice a few changes. Vermont lighting designer Jason “Liggy” Liggett will replace the stage lighting at Nectar’s and upstairs at Metronome. The Metronome bar will be replaced, Maier said. Nectar’s will create a podcast studio partnering with Osiris Media, which is run by Phish lyricist Tom Marshall. Maier plans to start 4K streaming of sold-out and free concerts that those unable to get to Nectar’s can watch at home or on the road.
Maier doesn’t see big changes coming to the food at Nectar’s, which upgraded to upscale pub food with the arrival last year of chef Mike Crowell-Hall. He does hope to open Nectar’s for lunch a few days a week, possibly Thursdays through Sundays.