Gainesville’s Jam Set to Close

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Meg Taylor, 31, spins fire beside the drum circle at the Jam.
Meg Taylor, 31, spins fire beside the drum circle at the Jam.” credit=”Bradley Williams / WUFT News

The Jam, a Gainesville bar and music venue, will close its doors on Nov. 12 due to leasing troubles. Although co-owner Blake Briand, 36, said the exact date is tentative, the venue will close before Christmas.

The Jam, located at 817 W. University Ave., has been operating for a little over two years now. Since its launch, the venue has developed a strong community of followers that come out weekly for their drum circles and live music, Briand said.

It’s is also known for its support of local bands, said Meg Taylor, a regular patron.

“All the money we collect at the door goes to the bands,” Eddy Arenas, another co-owner, said.

The entirety of the Jam’s profit comes strictly from bar sales.

“We have bonfires here, and I think it builds community in a way that a lot of businesses only wish they could,” Taylor said. “I don’t feel like this is a business here – it is a family. A lot of us call it the ‘Jamily.’”

Taylor, 31, has been coming to the Jam since it opened and spins fire there regularly.

While she spun fire, a crowd circled around her. Drummers played around the bonfire, and patrons danced or joined in with other instruments.

“I don’t even think of it as a bar,” she said. “I think I’ve maybe had one apple cider since I’ve been coming here. I’m not much of a drinker, but I just love coming out and seeing the same faces again and again.”

Taylor is moving to Seattle at the same time the Jam is closing its doors.

“It just felt like that sense of closure,” Taylor said. “Like I’m leaving and moving on from this place that’s been my home away from home. I’m not leaving it behind because it won’t even be there. So it was really emotional for me.”

Arenas said the reasons for closing center on their month-to-month lease. The lease stops them from receiving any type of help from investors because there is always chance a they could be immediately evicted on short notice, he said.

Having a month-to-month lease, the only option available for the venue, has created issues with the landlords, Briand said.

“We can’t call the landlord and tell them to fix things because if we press them, they’ll execute our lease,” he said.

Arenas also said that Innovation Square at the University of Florida is attempting to gentrify the area.

“From what I’ve seen, they’re trying to put a hotel and a conference center right where the Jam stand[s],” Arenas said. “That includes tearing down the house behind the Jam, which was built in the late 1800s. It’s been like David fighting Goliath, but we’ve lost any sort of chance.”

Innovation Square at the University of Florida has posted their plan for development online. 

“They’re trying to support arts and culture, and in same breath they’re negatively affecting the arts and culture already here,” Arenas said.

Redeveloping the area would affect all of the local business on the block, he said.

“We’ll have to see what the future of the Jam holds,” Briand said. “Right now, there’s 80 people in there, camp-firing, jamming out, playing djembe. That’s what I want.”

Briand said that the co-owners did not have a vision when they started the Jam.

Arenas’ sister had a lease for the rest of the year on her café, Tagwa, that was closing, and they came up with the idea to open the bar up just to finish out that previous lease. Tagwa, which originally started as a gift store that turned into a café, was open for about three years before closing.

Although saddened, the community continues dancing.

“Sometimes knowing things have a limited time make them a little more precious,” Briand said. “It’s going to be remembered for years to come, and nobody will be able to take that away from us.”

About Bradley Williams

Bradley is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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