No money, more problems leads to Witch Room's closure

Citing a lack of revenue, the venue’s owners are set to shutter the Midtown spot at the end of the month

Witch Room co-founders (from left to right) Liz Liles, Olivia Coelho and Liz Mahoney will close Witch Room at the end of the month.

Witch Room co-founders (from left to right) Liz Liles, Olivia Coelho and Liz Mahoney will close Witch Room at the end of the month.

Photo by Alec Moreno

Anton Barbeau and Bellygunner perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 12, at Witch Room, located at 1815 19th Street. Tickets are $5. For a complete list of Witch Room's final events visit

It’s been a rough year for live-music lovers in Sacramento.

Bows & Arrows went first in January. Longtime all-ages venue Luigi’s Fun Garden shuttered next. After 16 years in some form, Marilyn’s on K was sold in October. Then at the end of November, Assembly Music Hall closed its doors when its managers left.

Now, Witch Room will cease to exist at the end of December.

“The simple fact is that we were not able to sustain enough revenue to cover our expenses and provide compensation to the founders that was sufficient to justify our efforts,” said proprietor Olivia Coelho in a press release.

Witch Room opened in March, with Coelho and co-founders Liz Liles and Liz Mahoney immediately booking wildly diverse acts—indie rock, rap, noise, death metal, bluegrass, deejays, comedy, burlesque. Touring and local artists alike had a home.

“Fostering creativity was what we wanted most,” Coelho said. “We knew it was a risky proposition but decided to give it our best shot for 10 months and see what happened.”

Some referred to Witch Room as “Bows & Arrows 2.0.” They both occupied 1815 19th Street, and Coelho was part of both efforts. But Witch Room and Bows & Arrows held clear, distinct identities and separate brands. Bows & Arrows was an art gallery, boutique and cafe with live music. Witch Room is a full-blown entertainment venue, with a new sound system, stage, booth seating and dim lighting. The entrance itself was moved off to the side. The only thing that really stayed was the leafy outdoor patio.

And Witch Room saw some rad shows in its short lifetime—Tera Melos, Two Sheds, King Tuff, Shannon and the Clams and many more came through. But it also wasn’t completely unusual to be one of a mere dozen people there on a Thursday night.

Eric Rushing and Bret Bair, the owners of Ace of Spades and Goldfield Trading Post, showed interest in buying Witch Room in October. They had been managing Assembly Music Hall but decided to leave, searching for their own new small venue to complement Ace of Spades. The deal didn’t happen.

Now, the Witch Room team is busy trying to make its last month as fun and celebratory as possible. The calendar is currently pretty barren. Local singer-songwriter Anton Barbeau and rock band Bellygunner play on Friday, December 12. The Midtown Moxies burlesque troupe performs Friday, December 19.

Drew Walker, who designed, installed and operated Witch Room’s sound system, is also gathering musicians, artists, videographers, photographers, comedians and other performers for a two-day, last-minute minifestival on December 27 and 28. It’ll be called Sac Go Home Fest and 12 local bands have already signed up.

“I’m trying to give people one last chance to play the venue,” he said.

With that in mind, Walker also launched a last-minute, weekly open-mic series for December. The first edition saw about 50 people and a full list of local comedians and musicians with just 20 hours advance notice. The next open-mic takes place Tuesday, December 16. Sign-ups start at 7:30 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m. There’s a one drink minimum and Walker welcomes any type of performer.

“That’s what makes a night memorable—when someone does something outrageous, or at least different,” he said.

Live recordings from the open-mic series and parts of the festival will be used to create a commemorative Witch Room compilation, which Walker expects to complete in January. And then?

“We all expect to maintain our intense interest in the cultural life of this city that we love, and hope to contribute to it in the future,” Coelho said.