Popular “deep blues juke joint” Bayport BBQ announced last week it will retire its live music stage by the end of the year.
It’s a combination of factors, personal and business, says owner Chris Johnson. First, the Bayport, Minnesota, venue has been increasingly cited with noise complaints in recent months.
“In the past year we've had issues with the neighbors, city administration, and police over noise,” Johnson explains. “Our shows end at 10 p.m. and for the first four years we were able to have music outdoors with no objection. Something has changed. We've been nitpicked with building and fire codes, and I'm tired of the fight.”
Bayport BBQ, located about 30 minutes east of the Twin Cities, is first and foremost a restaurant, Johnson notes, and he brought live music to the venue as a fan, not as a business move. As his children enter high school and he looks to the future, he wants to simplify the business. The restaurant will be featured on Guy Fieri's popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on September 25, and he expects an increase in business to come through that publicity, easing the transition away from live music.
A music fan first, Johnson is eager to step back from the promotion side. “I've just reached a point where I'd like to cut back on the hours and dollars I put into music,” he says. “I'd much rather go buy a ticket and enjoy a show or festival. I'm hoping to put some of the time I spend booking, promoting, working shows, etc. into family and other projects.”
With shows booked through December, there’s still time to make the drive to Bayport to catch Frank Fairfield and Charlie Parr, Roe Family Singers, Fattenin' Frogs, and more. But Johnson says it’s time to put his side gig as a venue to bed.
“We have some great fans that attend many shows and we've gotten a little press to help promote, but never enough for me to really feel like we've been successful,” he says, adding that musicians have already told him the performance space will be missed.
Johnson was also heavily involved in the annual Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Deep Blues Northwest, Deep Blues Germany, and Roots Rock and Deep Blues Fest in Minneapolis. “[These] will all carry on,” he says. “They don't need me. I'll support and promote as a fan. I'm always looking forward to the next show."