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Shuttered Iron Horse Music Hall to reopen under new ownership

The Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts, has new owners for the first time in almost 30 years.

Eric Suher, a Northampton business owner, announced Wednesday he sold the Iron Horse to The Parlor Room, a non-profit music venue and school on Masonic Street, located just a few blocks from the music hall.

Described as a legendary venue, the Iron Horse first opened in the 1980s. Local and nationally known musicians played there, including Shawn Colvin, Graham Parker, The Nields, Chris Smither, Steve Forbes and Haley Heynderickx.

The venue operated for decades, until March 2020 when the COVID pandemic essentially shut down the live music industry.

Suher, who also owns the shuttered Calvin Theater and Pearl Street Nightclub, declined a request for an interview about the transaction. He replied in writing "[The Parlor Room] will be great stewards of the Iron Horse... the right choice to carry the torch."

Speaking on NEPM's The Fabulous 413, The Parlor Room's Chris Freeman said they initially approached Suher and their interests aligned.

“We signed a lease on the space, which can go up to 15 years, and we came to the initial purchase-and-sale on a full liquor license on the Iron Horse name and all business assets," Freeman said, although he would not disclose the buying price.

The real estate closing is scheduled for the end of October. Because The Parlor Room is a nonprofit the information will become public.

In the coming weeks Freeman said The Parlor Room will be announcing a multi-phased plan for renovations at the Iron Horse and a capital campaign.

"One of the ways that we're funding this is through an ARPA grant that we got from the city of Northampton," Freeman said, adding it was a grant initially intended for The Parlor Room to help purchase a liquor license.

"With [the purchase of the Iron Horse], we decided to ask [the city] to change it," Freeman said, and officials agreed.

In the restaurant and entertainment business, the license to sell liquor is a significant amount of revenue, and in Northampton there are a limited number available.

With the sale of the Iron Horse, Suher still owns four other closed entertainment venues in the city.

According to a city spokesperson, if the venues are not reopened by Friday or if Suher doesn't sell the liquor licenses in private transactions, the city will take the licenses back.

When the Iron Horse deal is finalized, The Parlor Room Collective will encompass three projects, including the Iron Horse, The Parlor Room, and The Parlor Room School of Music.

The original Parlor Room venue on Masonic Street will remain open as a headquarters for the school of music as well as an intimate performance venue.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
Christopher “Monte'' Belmonte is host and executive producer of NEPM's The Fabulous 413. He was born and raised in Massachusetts and has been a radio host in western Massachusetts for the last 20 years — the last 17 of them as host of Mornings with Monte on The River 93.9/WRSI.
Kaliis Smith is a radio host and producer for NEPM's The Fabulous 413. She was most recently host and producer at The River 93.9/WRSI where she appeared on Mornings with Monte for the Nerdwatch segment and hosted weekday evenings.

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