The Vermont Cynic

Higher Ground to Close?


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Rumors have been spreading around campus that Higher Ground will be closing down. As the most popular venue in the Burlington/Winooski area, the closure of Higher Ground would dramatically change the music scene in Burlington.

Higher Ground, which opened in April of 1998, books a wide variety of shows with the such talented musicians as KRS-One, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Toots and the Maytals. The 18+ policy of the club makes it accessible to all college students in the area, and its ideal size and well equipped bar has made it a favorite among UVM students.

Unfortunately, the fate of the club is unclear because of plans for massive development of downtown Winooski.

For the past two years, the Winooski City Development Committee has been working on a complete re-structuring of Winooski that would include a waterfront park in front of the Winooski River, the construction of office buildings and condominiums, and the creation of a downtown similar to that of Burlington. This ambitious plan for development does not include Higher Ground, and the building it occupies now would be completely demolished.

Co-owner Alex Crothers thinks that because of the struggling economy, it will be difficult to go ahead with the plans, “Without any money, nothing gets done.” Although the future of the club is up in the air, Crothers is optimistic that Higher Ground will stay at its present location for a while. “We’ve had our busiest fall to date this year and we are going to start booking for the beginning of next year.”

Over the past two years, management at Higher Ground has been talking continuously with the Winooski City Development Committee and a number of deadlines have been set for Higher Ground to move out of the space, but these deadlines have been pushed back several times. Although the next deadline is set for January 15, the staff of Higher Ground wonder if that deadline will be postponed again due to a lack of organization and funding for the city’s development plans.

The threat of possible eviction does exist and the staff at Higher Ground have been looking around for a new space but have not offered any specifics on a possible new location. They are disappointed at the prospect of having to move when the lease for their current space extends for another six years. “We are happy in Winooski and we want to stay. We have a good relationship with the city, the police, and we like the space,” said Crothers.

Students have expressed concern over the possible closure of Higher Ground and what it would mean for Burlington’s music scene. “Regardless of what happens, it’s important that Higher Ground stays in the Burlington area. It just brings such great music into town,” said senior Ryan Lowe.

Although the future of Higher Ground remains uncertain, it is likely that a complete shutdown of the venue will not occur for at least a few months, possibly longer. The owners are preparing for this by looking for a new home for Higher Ground.

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Higher Ground to Close?