Viracocha, Mission District Music Venue, to Close

Ezza Rose and her band perform in Viracocha's basement. (Photo: Pete Lee)

Viracocha, the basement venue on Valencia Street that's hosted live music for the past five and a half years, is set to close.

The Mission District spot has been plagued with ongoing financial trouble -- a year and a half ago, according to the SF Weekly, it faced $40,000 in debt while being charged $10,000 in monthly rent.

Now, according to emails from bands playing the venue, and a flurry of reports on social media, the space will close its doors in the next two months. Viracocha's official website is currently down.

While the rumor mill has churned about the beloved spot for months, owner and operator Jonathan Siegel has been intentionally quiet about the closure. In mid-June, KQED contacted Siegel, who did not deny the venue's impending closure but declined official comment.

A couple dances upstairs at Viracocha.
A couple dances upstairs at Viracocha. (Photo: Pete Lee)

Viracocha joins a list of San Francisco music venues that have shuttered in recent years, including Kimo's, The Addition, the Red Devil Lounge, and soon the Elbo Room, which is scheduled to close later this year. Nearby development has also threatened the operations of the Bottom of the Hill and Slim's, resulting in legislation, passed in May, to protect nightclubs from the friction that historically comes with new condos and their residents.

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But Viracocha is no ordinary nightclub.

Upstairs, the space operates primarily as an antique store. A typewriter repair service and a free lending library have also shared the space. Its bathroom was once named among 10 finalists in a "Best Bathroom in America" contest.

Downstairs, Viracocha hosts not just live music but numerous reading events, including a series called "You Are Going to Die," where participants share intense stories about death. Longtime San Francisco politician Matt Gonzalez has taught classes downstairs for the Free University of San Francisco.

In short, Viracocha has been a de facto community center, where anyone with an idea could find a home for it, and where, often, one needing temporary employment might be able to find it behind Viracocha's antique cash register. Last year, to journalist Kate Conger, Siegel referred to Viracocha as a "cultural advocacy group."

Viracocha's famous bathroom.
Viracocha's famous bathroom. (Photo: Pete Lee)

But the space will be remembered most fondly by the San Francisco music community, many bands from which performed on the small, below-ground-level wooden stage. Megan Keely and Wolf Larsen and Con Brio, all Bay Area artists, have shot music videos at the space, as have nationally recognized hip-hop duo Atmosphere.

Remarkably, Viracocha's music events continued for several years without proper permitting, even as the fire department periodically visited the space to stay updated on the building's layout. In September of last year, the venue finally acquired the required permits in an effort to stay afloat, paying for costly updates to the building and adding to its debt along the way.

Amidst the permitting process, an unlikely vignette provided a microcosm of the venue's purpose and support base: during a 2013 City Hall meeting, a police officer from the Mission precinct declared her on-the-record support of Viracocha -- spoken in dramatic iambic pentameter.

Viracocha's upcoming calendar currently runs through July.