ONCE has been a vibrant and dynamic event space in Somerville, MA since 2015. JJ Gonson and crew transformed the former Anthony’s Function Hall into a welcoming and quirky venue packed with art and ambiance. ONCE hosted a variety of events: music of all kinds, community events, nonprofit fundraisers, theater productions, weddings, and so much more. In November of 2020, the ONCE Somerville Ballroom & Lounge was forced to shut its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Six months earlier, we banded together and launched the ONCE Virtual Venue (OVV) where we have hosted more than a hundred live-streamed events, including music, interviews, and dance parties. With the venue shuttered, the OVV has been a space for the creatives, music fans, and our community to safely come together.
Now that ONCE exists only online, we have created this Patreon as a space to stay connected with everyone we miss so much. We will continue to offer our OVV space for community, events, expression, and art for everyone, but now we’ll also give our Patreon members access to exclusive, personal, behind- the- scenes ONCE content. With your support, we will be able to continue to offer thoughtful OVV programming that showcases all the beautiful talent in our scene and beyond as we keep an eye to the future and a goal of reuniting in person at a new ONCE home where we can welcome you back with open arms.
Other ways you can support
I want to personally share this news with you and to explain the “why” behind it.
The event space we call ONCE is leased by my locavore catering company, Cuisine en Locale. Everyone worked for CeL. When COVID hit, and business stopped entirely, so many people stepped up to help ONCE/Cuisine en Locale to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign kept the venue going for a few months, made it possible to pay people and prevented us from having to immediately lay off all of the staff. That was amazing! Right around when that ran out, we received some COVID relief funding. We used all of it carefully and wisely, but those funds have run out now, and there is no additional aid in sight. Cuisine en Locale and ONCE, in separate ways, have pivoted and created and tried to hang on to our space as long as possible, but with revenue at less than 20% of what it was pre-pandemic, without the ability to gather in person for events and without government aid programs substantial enough to sustain our physical operations, we are left with no choice. We can’t hold on until we are able to reopen.
This sucks. I adore our quirky ballroom and lounge – the space Cuisine en Locale has occupied since 2014, and that has been called ONCE for over 4 years. Many, many people have worked long hours to make a welcoming, warm, and safe home for all. The mirrored walls, gold ceilings and chandeliers hold so many happy (and loud!) memories.
We have embraced our home as much as we could during this global crisis, video-ing excellent art on our soundstage and cooking nourishing, locally-sourced food in the kitchen. To keep our ONCE family connected and support local musicians, writers, and artists, a group of ONCE staff and volunteers launched the ONCE Virtual Venue (OVV). Bridget Duggan, James McElhiney, Erin Genett, Stephen Loverme, Oliver Saffery, Erin Solomon, and Chris Porter, along with our beloved advisors and myself have built a whole new ONCE world in nine short months, while Carrie “Scarrie” Hirschberg and Dylan have kept a few great things going in the Cuisine en Locale kitchen to help make it work.
We should be – and we are – really proud!
But we cannot make ends meet. COVID has made it impossible to make the kind of money we need to occupy a space of that size. The insurance, the electricity… I know you get it.
The hardest part of this whole shit show has been not being able to just see people. I did not realize how important that front stairway with the door person and the chandelier was. It was our office water fountain. Closing and watching the immediate understanding among the whole staff of what that meant, and suddenly being pulled apart, has been debilitatingly sad. I miss everyone terribly. I know we are all feeling this way. I’m glad for this chance to tell you so. Without you it is just a hallway. You made the gold ceiling shine.
So, now what? We’ve persisted through unexpected and unforeseen hardships before and, together we will do it again. ONCE is going to enter a new chapter, now. Cuisine en Locale, the catering company, will be going out of business, and our goal is ultimately to find a home for ONCE where we can welcome you back with open arms (remember hugs?) for in-person shows, flea markets, benefits, and community-building events.
For now, we will be online at the ONCE Virtual Venue, and we want you to continue to be a part of that endeavour. We, ONCE, plan to stay in touch with you, and we hope you will stay in touch with us, too.
We are asking anyone who wants to lend a hand with any number of skills to fill out this form. We will be needing volunteers to help us keep producing online content and aim for an in-person comeback.
We’re launching a ONCE Patreon and asking for a pledge of recurring gifts (starting at just $2 a month) Our patrons will get some cool perks in return, like exclusive access to certain OVV productions, ONCE merch discounts and signed prints of my rock photographs.
To help with SEO and keeping our voice heard through the void, please subscribe to the ONCE Virtual Venue YouTube channel and watch, like, and share our videos
Purchase holiday gifts from the ONCE webstore, Shoppervillle.
If you are not on our email list, the sign up is on our website. We know things are going to be chaotic, and we don’t want to lose track of anyone.
Please, please, please if you have photos you took at the venue, please share them, and tag us. We are carefully packing up the things that make ONCE, ONCE. We have built a traveling ONCE Lounge set and we plan to be recording with partner spaces until we have one of our own again. We will keep the piano and the bowling furniture safe. The PA, which started at Harper’s Ferry, then went to TTs and then came to ONCE, will be packed properly and stored safely with our friends at Springdale Beer Company.
So, that is the story. Fuck COVID.
Thank you for being part of the ONCE Army.
Founder and proprietrix,
ONCE Somerville/Cuisine en Locale