092519_MNS_CGL_wrapup Shawn Mullins

Atlanta native Shawn Mullins.

The Vista Room, a DeKalb County concert venue that hosted musicians from Canned Heat to Shawn Mullins and many others, announced it has closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a message posted to its website and emailed to its email distribution list, the four-year-old business stated it could no longer operate. The Vista Room, which also served as an event venue, was located on LaVista Road inside Napoleon’s Grill, which is staying open.

“We are sad to announce that The Vista Room has closed permanently,” the message stated. “March 10, we laid off 12 of 15 staff and cooked takeout meals from our Napoleon’s Grill, which has remained viable on a shoestring for 90 days, and will continue, but (has) not reopened the dining room as yet.

“As an independent (business) we simply cannot sensibly sustain the massive overheard losses which will now run thru at least August (six months) and even then, judging by the surprising lack of attendance at restaurants and gyms the last there weeks, people will hesitate coming until Christmas.”

The message also stated The Vista Room had a great run while it lasted.

“We enjoyed four years of effort and success and fun believing in our mission of a unique music venue focused on the BEST hospitality for both artists and audiences, backed by restaurant quality food and servers, top sound techs plus a wide spectrum of great live music!” it stated. “The Vista Room didn’t fail – we were squashed by a bug! But we are all alive and moving on down new trails as the world deals with COVID-19. Thank you to everyone that came and played – you were all magnificent!”

In an interview, Bob Hewitt, The Vista Room’s booking agent, said the business waited as long as it could before making the tough choice to close.

“There comes a point where you have to be honest,” he said. “The forecast we thought was going to happen is the city was not going to allow (concert) venues (to reopen) until August. I had been watching the restaurant activity across the city, from Midtown to downtown to Buckhead. They’re not getting the attendance I would have expected. Neither is (a local) L.A. Fitness from the day it reopened. They’re getting 20 to 30%. Projecting that to the venue, we’re not going to see capacity until the end of the year and it’s too far away to hang on.”

Hewitt said what made The Vista Room unique was its combination of seating up to 450 individuals, delivering a variety of acts and offering upscale dining and excellent service.

“I would go to concerts three nights a week,” he said. “There wasn’t a place that could do what The Vista Room could do. It would be easier to say what we didn’t have. We didn’t have metal and Gregorian chant music. … We could change the seating arrangements for every show, curated for its band and its audience.”

Hewitt, who hosts 89.3 FM’s “Good Morning Blues” weekday show under the name UK Bob, said he helped start The Vista Room as a venue where he could host blues acts after existing ones said they couldn’t or were too small.

“Then I started bring Zydeco acts up from New Orleans,” he said. “To have a venue that could bend itself to suit everything is unique.”

Hewitt said he worked there for three years.

“We never did it for the money,” he said. “I would almost have tears in my eyes if I drove up and the parking lot wasn’t full. Not for me but for the band and the staff. If you were to talk to all the national talent agents from West Coast to East Coast, everyone who sent us an act (said), ‘Wow, we were taken care of more than anywhere else we played.’ We got testimonials from everybody.”

Hewitt also said it had two top-notch sound technicians, Chris Yates from Collective Soul and Jeep Hook from Talk Talk.

“When you have a band come in and they realize who the sound tech is, it makes sound check easy and takes 30 minutes,” he said, adding The Vista Room was honest and straightforward. “We’ll look at anybody and we’ll answer everybody and we’ll answer them nicely. … We always said, ‘If you’re good or you want to be good, come here.’

“I’m hoping people will remember us if we get another chance somewhere else.”

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