The Big Fish Pub in Tempe Is Closing on June 30

Categories: Opening/Closing

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A local rocker performs onstage at the Big Fish Pub.

Tempe's increasingly barren live music scene is about to get even more desolate as another landmark venue is about to go out of business.

The Big Fish Pub, the infamous University Drive rock bar that's been featuring local and touring bands for nearly 20 years, will close its doors and unplug its amps for good on June 30.

And the closure is apparently the result of money-related drama between The Big Fish's proprietors and the owners of the Tempe strip mall where it's been located since first opening in the mid-1990s.

On Wednesday, the venue's closing was announced -- more or less -- via a Facebook event page for its final night in business that was posted online and gives a lengthy explanation about why The Big Fish is going belly up.

Essentially, it all boils down to money.

According to essay-length diatribe, which we're fairly certain was written by Big Fish Pub's current owner Victor Boiseau, the owners of the Fort Knox Plaza upped the venue's rent after making a significant exterior renovation to the shopping center's building within the past year. And, apparently, Boiseau couldn't afford the increase.

If you have stopped by the Pub in the past few months, I am sure you have noticed the many improvements to the outside of the building. The property was sold to a greedy businessman who decided that the cosmetic improvements to the exterior of the building commanded a ridiculously elevated rent. We were given an ultimatum to sign a five year lease at two and half times our current rent or to move out. As many of you know, there is not a lot of money in local music and the increase in rent would make it impossible to pay bills. At this point we have exhausted all of our efforts to continue at our current location.

The message also states that Boiseau may possibly move the bar to another location but, sadly, won't keep The Big Fish name.

If we find a new location, it will take a few months to get the doors open. Either way, the Big Fish Pub name will be retired, as it should be. The Pub has been in the same place for decades and to relocate it, changes what it is and what it has been. Who could have guessed, nearly 20 years ago, that a grungy music venue would have survived this long?

New Times was unable to speak with Boiseau for further information about the situation.

In a stroke of tragic synchronicity, Big Fish Pub will close a day after the equally long-running Tempe venue The Sail Inn shuts down its original location.

Shows are booked through the end of the month, with the final performances taking place on Saturday, June 28.

It makes last next weekend a depressing one when it comes to live music in Tempe, a city that was once widely renowned as Arizona's unofficial rock capital and was overflowing with bars and joints where bands were performing night in and night out.

By the end of this month, however, you can pretty much count Tempe's music venues on one hand.

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22 comments
Marco Cruz
Marco Cruz

saw two bums having sex next to the dumpster in the rear while employees watched and threw change at them every time skin slapped. never went back again.

Josh Skora
Josh Skora

It seems like this happens in Tempe every 5-10 years or so

Aaron Hjalmarson
Aaron Hjalmarson

Clubs should pay bands better, so they can afford proper promotion, and attract better projects. Just a thought, possibly a pipe dream. It's a shame to see all of these venues drop like flies

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

That's too bad. Oh well, there are other evenues popping up. I remember playing the Big Fish back in 2001-2003, it was an alirhg tplace to play, but i remeber the one time when i plugged directly into the wall socket with my amp, it blew the fuse in my amp and I had to mad scramble and borrow someone's amp. That show sucked for me and that's when i discovered rack mounted surge protectors, hahahaha.

Erica Snyder
Erica Snyder

Terry Benelli... what about the old Kirk's?

Ryan Ami
Ryan Ami

Guess we better hit it up asap Shannon Mendibles

Brandon Wilson
Brandon Wilson

When was the last time a good show was at big fish pub? Circa 2003 probably..

J_TORGESON
J_TORGESON

It's a sad day.  The landlord is in business to make money, but he will not get the rent he's demanding.

Tempe was amazing when I opened the Electric Ballroom in 1994.  Vibrant, edgy, but shackled by a busy body local government.  Shutting it's doors was the only option other than going postal.  The City was very hard on it's venues and they disappeared over the years.

Now, it seems that after a more welcome period, under Hugh Hallman, it's headed back to tough (see Clubhouse).  Add the fact that landlords are not as community minded (see rent increases) and hope for corporate tenants, you see rock 'n' roll struggle; it's a low rent game.


Hopefully, the owner can relocate (maybe even open up the old Mason Jar), and a more Phoenix scene may come around.


Rock 'n' Roll will never die, but it is fading away... sad.

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