SPRING LAKE — The owners of Seven Steps Up are closing their music venue after 11 years of hosting concerts and live performances in Spring Lake in an attempt to recoup mounting costs from an underperforming concert series they host for the city of Grand Haven.
Owners Gary and Michelle Hanks said in an announcement of the closing on social media that they plan to sell the building, located at 116 South Jackson St. The renovated Masonic Temple is more than 100 years old and seats about 130 concertgoers for a mix of intimate performances, as well as club-style concert settings.
The Hankses also started a GoFundMe campaign two days ago to raise $140,000 for Courtyard Concerts, a nonprofit organization they founded in 2013 to bring music and live performances to the area.
Since 2019, Courtyard Concerts has been working with the city of Grand Haven to host Summer Sessions concerts at Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium, which has proven to be “a huge mistake” for the nonprofit as well as the Hankses’ personal and business finances, according to the GoFundMe description.
The Hankses cite the losses from the Summer Sessions “in excess of $100,000” as part of the reason they need to sell the building that houses Seven Steps Up. The couple also live above the venue in the building.
“The founders of the organization are supporting the shortfall through personal and business loans for the short term. They must sell their venue (which is also their home) to fund the shortage in the long term,” they wrote in the GoFundMe campaign.
The couple attribute their losses to four key factors: a lack of community support for the summer concert series that led to “meager” ticket sales, changes at the Depot building that limited access to outdoor space for the concert series, the city’s inaccurate estimates of the capacity for Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium and changes in city management that led to delays and rushed decisions.
Meanwhile, the owners expect all concerts at Seven Steps Up with tickets currently for sale to go on as planned. Currently, 25 shows are scheduled to take place at the venue through the end of 2022. Singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg is scheduled for Dec. 10 in presumably the last show to take place at the venue under its current ownership.
“We have been so honored and humbled to share the music and experiences,” the owners wrote in a Facebook post. “This is absolutely one of the most difficult decisions and heart wrenching decisions we have ever had to make.”
Like many other small venues, Seven Steps Up also had to cancel concerts throughout 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions, which came with its share of obstacles, the owners previously told MiBiz. The Hankses said they felt better off than some small venues during the pandemic because they owned their building, but being a smaller venue meant it was also less financially viable to reopen under the capacity restrictions.
“We have no expectations, it’s a survival thing,” Michelle Hanks previously told MiBiz in January 2021. “The goal is surviving. A year ago we were planning so far in advance and thought we knew exactly what was going to happen next.
Seven Steps Up is a member of the National Independent Venue Association, which lobbied state and federal lawmakers for venue relief funding throughout the pandemic. The venue received $38,000 from a crowdfunded GoFundMe campaign, as well as a $35,000 grant from the national Live Music Society to help cover operating expenses during COVID-19 shutdowns.
The Hankses and Grand Haven city officials did not respond to a request for comment at the time this report was published.