Exclusive: People's is closing
Exclusive: People's is closing
People’s on Court owner Tom Zmolek announced that the music venue he opened in 2007 will close after the scheduled concerts this weekend. Between a location in Ames and the newer Court District location, People’s has been hosting concerts for 22 years, including shows by Widespread Panic, Kevin Costner, Girl Talk and others.
The venue, located on the top floor of the Court Center building, 214 Fourth St., will host two final shows Friday and Saturday. Events scheduled over the next few months will be canceled or relocated.
Zmolek cited low ticket sales for the concert industry in general, an oversaturation in the local market and a need for a lifestyle change as his reasons for closing the venue.
“I have been working bar/concert hours for 24 years now,” Zmolek said in an email. “I see what I have in front of me if I continue to work this crazy schedule and that’s an early onset heart attack from working 15-20-hour days and drinking seven Red Bulls a night just to make it through.”
Zmolek has owned a number of bars in Des Moines over the years, including the A.K. O’Connors chain, which had its last location close in Beaverdale in 2011. Zmolek filed for bankruptcy in July, but said at the time that People’s was not affected.
“I have found myself these past few years nervously counting ticket drops and bar sales and merchandise sales as if that was what was important about the shows and to me that’s not it,” Zmolek said. “When it ceased to be ‘all about the music’ is when I knew that it was time to be done.”
Zmolek got into the bar business in 1988 when he opened Underwhere? at 2428 Lincoln Way in Ames. In 1990 he opened People’s Bar & Grill above Underwhere? and changed the downstairs bar’s name to Lumpy’s. In Ames, People’s hosted concerts by Wilco, String Cheese Incident, 311 and countless other touring acts, along with local bands like The Nadas.
The Nadas played some of its first shows at People’s in Ames and played the last show there in 2007. Nadas singer/guitarist Jason Walsmith said Zmolek did great things for his band’s career, but also for Iowa music as a whole.
“I can confidently say People’s put Iowa on the map for live music,” Walsmith said. “It was People’s bringing in national acts at an affordable price that built an entire live music-appreciating culture in Ames.”
Sam Summers has been booking shows into People’s since the venue moved to Des Moines in 2007. Earlier this year Summers opened his own venue -- Wooly’s, at 504 E. Locust St. -- with a similar capacity to People’s (People’s capacity was around 900, Wooly’s is 700). Summers continued to book shows into People’s, including a sold-out Macklemore show scheduled for Dec. 4, which Summers is seeking a new home for. Summers credits Zmolek and People’s with helping to expand his own career.
“He basically helped me move it to the next level in Des Moines,” Summers said. “There are too many bad people in this business, but Tom’s not one of them.”
The final concerts at People’s will be a “Night of the Living Dead Moines” show Friday featuring local bands performing as tribute acts and the DJ concert Halloween Mascarade 8 on Saturday.
Zmolek said he didn’t know what would happen with the space after People’s closed, or what comes next for him.
“I don’t know what my next adventure will be,” Zmolek said. “I am going to take some time off to reflect on my future and hopefully another opportunity will come along that will be equally as rewarding as People’s has been for me."