Once Ballroom—the Somerville nightclub and headquarters of the locally-grown food catering company Cuisine en Locale—was hit by a burglary and wrecked office overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, owner JJ Gonson says.
The head chef/head of sound found the damage when he arrived at 156 Highland Ave. business around 10:30 Wednesday morning, she says.
“Sean [O’Brien] came in to open to cater and he found a wrecked office. Just stuff everywhere. The doors were torn off the cabinets. That is the damage, an office that way, ripped to pieces,” Gonson says. “We don’t know how they got in or out. That makes everybody uncomfortable.”
“The alarm was on,” Gonson says. “At 3:30 in the morning, they [the alarm company] heard something and they didn’t call us.”
Police “reports currently note that the building was secure and there were no signs of forced entry, and that multiple people have keys and a building access code,” according to a Somerville city spokesperson.
Once also reported to police that hundreds of dollars were missing. Gonson asked me not to name the exact amount. “It wasn’t a huge amount of money. It was the office that was torn apart and a sense of discomfort at a time when Boston music is already feeling uncomfortable. We just had that EMF [musicians building in Cambridge] thing. For a small business any loss is a loss.”
Angelle Wood, the longtime host of the locally-created music program “Boston Emissions” and organizer of the annual Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble contest, launched a GoFundMe fund-raiser for Once on Thursday: “Once Ballroom in Somerville is one of the last remaining independently-owned spaces around. We learned today that the venue was vandalized and robbed. This is a tough blow, and just as the club enters into the historically leaner months on the concert calendar. Please join together in offering support and throw them a line. This fund will assist the club in the fixes it needs and to face the aforementioned lean times.”
As of midday Saturday, $12,781 have been pledged toward a $20,000 goal. “It’s beyond generous,” Gonson says.
Cuisine en Locale launched in 2005. Once Ballroom opened as an offshoot in early 2014.
“There have been some really tough moments for Once,” Gonson says. “It started with that year when it snowed all the time.” Once hosted the Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble in 2016 and 2017, but plans fell through in 2018, which Gonson says was another big financial blow.
The burglary and vandalism “totally sucks and it hurts us because we’re so hand to mouth. It hurts us,” Gonson says. “It’s so fragile. It doesn’t take much to damage a business.”
Should people worry that Once might close?
“This is not it,” Gonson says. “We are always, always, always on the edge. I invite people to think about what really matters for longevity is to come to shows or if you can’t come to shows … consider if you can buy a ticket and give it to a friend. … What really matters is coming to the shows and buying drinks and telling friends.” She adds, “Or consider us for catering.”
What now? “We repaint the office, put the doors back on the hinges. We go to the bank and take out more money. … And keep calm and carry on, my friend. Don’t abandon the music scene. Fight fiercely to support food and art because culture matters.”
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