It started in one disaster, and it ends during another.
The Lab opened in an outpost of the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Carmel in the spring of 2017, while the damaged Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge left Big Sur inaccessible. What was then called Henry Miller Library at the Barnyard screened films that would’ve otherwise been shown outdoors under the redwoods. After nonprofit Henry Miller Library returned to its Big Sur venue, Mike Scutari stayed in town to run The Lab, which evolved to host readings, live music, local craft fairs and art exhibits.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down the venue and its revenue, and The Lab will close on June 1. “Unfortunately, due to the short – and long-term uncertainties involved with operating an event space during a pandemic and ongoing social distancing, The Lab will be closing its doors,” Scutari writes in a statement.
It’s not the only venue reeling from the shutdown. Sly’s Refueling Station on Cannery Row laid off all staff on March 17, and a message on their website reads like a farewell: “We are closed indefinitely. Take care and stay safe! Thank you all for years of patronage. It has been a blast contributing to the vibrant music scene in Monterey.”
Jim McCrossan is a senior manager for Sly’s who writes by email, “Unfortunately, the current threat of government-mandated closures has created obstacles that may be too great to overcome. We will likely become another victim of Covid-19.”
Sly’s, formerly called Sly McFly’s, was in business for nearly 43 years, and had a reputation for nightly live music from 9pm to at least midnight, with a packed dance floor even midweek. But, McCrossan adds, the business “has struggled financially for several years.”
To that end, he points to the felony embezzlement case against the former general manager, Jack Burnam, who worked for Sly’s for 20 years. He was charged in December 2018, and accepted a plea deal in January 2020; his sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 27 in Monterey County Superior Court.
About 10 months before he was charged, Burnam sued the owners, alleging he was denied his rightful ownership stake in the business and was forced out while the McCrossans restructured. The next hearing in Burnam’s suit is scheduled for July 31.
At The Lab, crisis and closure may again be inspiring something new: Daniela Estlin of Tidewings Creative, an arts company and collective that has partnered with The Lab, intends to incorporate the group as a nonprofit. “I’m hopeful it will serve the community in similar, but broader ways for the long term,” she says.