After over a decade in the Lexington music scene, Cosmic Charlie’s, a Lexington bar and music venue, permanently closed on May 31. The bar primarily hosted rock and indie bands; artists like Sturgill Simpson and Mac Miller perform on its stage.
“It was founded by music lovers and operated by music lovers,” said Cosmic. Charlie'sproduction manager Kris Morris. “Our goal was to make live music happen in a way that was accessible for everyone.”
The bar’s original location was on Woodland Ave, but it eventually moved to National Ave and later West Loudon Ave. With each move, the bar tried to preserve the culture and reputation it accumulated in its previous locations.
“Our first location was pretty much a dive, hole-in-the-wall type of deal,” Morris said. “We...got a little fancy with National Ave, [but] eventually it evolved back to...that grime that you would expect in a good old fashioned rock and roll club.”
“Cosmic on Woodland was a stinky and sticky gem,” said Mary Allen, who assisted with marketing and booking during the bar’s early years. “It was an outlet for anyone in Lexington who didn’t just listen to Top 40 or country radio. It was a place where being different was embraced and you could see music of any genre.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cosmic Charlie’s was unable to host its usual live shows. To combat this, the staff instead featured their scheduled artists through Facebook livestreams, financially supporting the artists and the venue through fan donations.
“The live streams came about as a way to connect with our audiences during stay-at-home orders. We had months of shows that were already booked, so I reached out to everyone who was local to see if they wanted to transition into this "new normal" with us,” said Operations Manager Kayti McMyermick. “Even though the ‘normal’ show wasn't a possibility...at least we could work together with our community to keep the music flowing and create income that we wouldn't have had otherwise.”
However, on May 24, Cosmic Charlie’s announced on Facebook that it would be permanently closing. Its final livestream, a “living funeral” for the business, took place on May 31. McMeyermick said that the venue suffered greatly from a lack of ticket and drink sales, as these were a major source of revenue for the business.
“We contributed our time and skills and passion because we all genuinely love and support...art, but ultimately, the money is what keeps a business open,” McMeyermick said. “When COVID-19 came to town, it took away our ability to earn on the terms we had spent years navigating small-businessdom with.”
“Independent music venues are among the hardest hit businesses by COVID,” Allen said. “[Cosmic Charlie’s] survived two venue relocations—enough to take out even the best of venues in major cities—but COVID has been a tsunami to our industry and, unfortunately, businesses like Cosmic are the most vulnerable.”
Still, the staff is grateful for Cosmic Charlie’s and the atmosphere it created.
“Cosmic Charlie's...was a business that brought in something for everybody—from trivia nights to punk shows and beyond,” McMyermick said. “It was people who purchased their tickets to the show, grabbed a drink at the bar, brought their art to showcase on our stages, and did their part in keeping the business running.”
“We did what we could, we gave it a fighting chance, and we did everything we were able [to do],” Morris said. “It was the best job I've ever had.”
Those wishing to support the staff of Cosmic Charlie’s can donate to their Venmo at @spacechucks. Cosmic Charlie’s has also promoted the National Independent Venue Association, an organization dedicated to preserving local music venues in the midst of the pandemic.