They say misfortune strikes in threes, and Boston’s live-music scene is bearing some truth to that this year. The Beachcomber, a popular Quincy bar that’s been a mainstay for music on the South Shore since 1959, has been sold and will shutter its doors in early September.
Sean McGettrick, one of its owners, confirmed the news to the Globe Friday and said an official announcement had not yet been made. He expects to close around Sept. 4.
The Beachcomber, a family-owned seaside bar not far from Wollaston Beach, is the latest in a string of well-known venues closing in the Boston area. T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge hosted its final show last week, capping a four-decade run, and Johnny D’s in Somerville recently announced it will end its 46-year history in early 2016.
“This has been a place people love, and we’ve had a lot of good times here,” said the 48-year-old McGettrick, adding that it’s still too early to announce the bar’s farewell plans.
The Beachcomber — not to be mistaken with the Wellfleet bar and restaurant with the same name — is a 2,876-square-foot space with an outdoor patio and a dive-bar atmosphere. It went on the market last year for $1.6 million. McGettrick declined to name the sale price or the new owner, but said it was a local businessman who planned to turn the Beachcomber into a high-end restaurant.
As McGettrick understood it, the current building will be torn down, and the new business will be erected in the parking lot on stilts “to get out of the flood zone.” It will still be called the Beachcomber, he said.
In its heyday, stars both established and rising passed through its door, from jazz giants (Louis Armstrong) and country queens (Loretta Lynn) to pop stars (Linda Ronstadt) and hometown heroes (Dropkick Murphys). Rosemary Clooney, Duke Ellington, Tiny Tim, Count Basie, and Bobby Darin played there. From the early ’80s to the late ’90s, it was known as Nostalgia before reverting to its original name.
Jimmy McGettrick, who opened it in 1959 with a business partner he later bought out, was largely responsible for putting the Beachcomber on the map. When he died in 2011, the business stayed in the family among his children, who grew up with all sorts of stories about the live entertainment. Sean McGettrick has fond memories of seeing Andover native Jay Leno do stand-up comedy there in the 1970s. Recently, the bar had been an established destination for tribute bands, DJs, and Irish music.
The Beachcomber’s closure, and the downturn it signals for locally owned nightspots, prompts a broad question: What is happening with Boston’s live-music landscape?
“I don’t feel like we should all be wearing black and thinking things are ending,” said Randi Millman, who has a long history booking Boston-area clubs, including T.T. the Bear’s, Johnny D’s, and now Atwood’s Tavern. “More people notice when something closes because it’s sad, but it’s like anything else: Mom-and-pop stores are going under. There’s nothing different about it, but it is weird that they’ve been clustered together like this in Boston.
“I don’t think live music is dying. Things are just shifting,” Millman added. “There are still plenty of places that support local bands. If anything, I think the scene will become more fertile as people stop looking to clubs and find alternative spaces for the arts.”
Still, the Beachcomber’s demise is sad news for local musicians such as Carla Ryder. A singer-songwriter who grew up on the South Shore, Ryder often used to play the bar as part of the band Mudhens, and said it was unlike any other local venue she had experienced.
“I think people have a deep respect for that place, and they have a reputation of treating their artists supremely well,” Ryder said. “It’s a venerable old Boston institution that feels very down-home. It feels horrible to me that all these Boston clubs that are closing are the classic old ones.”
Andy Doherty, who used to manage Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, said Jimmy McGettrick was beloved for being generous, sometimes more so than Boston club owners.
“Barrence played there many times,” Doherty said. “He’d pay us $850 on a Wednesday or Thursday. We had to bring a sound system — $150, as I recall — but it was definitely more than the clubs in town paid on weekdays.”
Steve Morse, the Globe’s former rock critic, remembers the Beachcomber as a unique departure for local bands.
“It hasn’t been as prominent in the last few years, but in the ’80s and ’90s, it was an extremely important bar, and just about all the Boston acts played it,” Morse said.
“It was a fun night out,” Morse said. “You’d go to the beach, get wild and reckless, and then head over to the Beachcomber. It was a place to let your hair down, with a loose, freewheeling rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere. It’ll be missed.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article contained a photograph that misidentified at least one of the men pictured. The photo has been removed from the online article.