Last days at Che’s


Barring a miracle, Che’s Lounge will be closed forever when Memorial Day weekend is done. Citing financial difficulties, owner PJ Woodford has decided after three-and-a-half years to liquidate the coffee house’s assets and vacate the premises.

“It’s been a great ride,” Mr. Woodford said. “There are a lot of great memories tied up in this place. Maybe somebody else will pick up the idea and run with it. I hope they do.”

Like its spiritual predecessors, the Mooncusser Café in Oak Bluffs and Wintertide Coffeehouse in Vineyard Haven, Che’s Lounge was born as a homegrown musical alternative to the cover-band scene common to popular resort bars. Tucked in an alleyway off Main Street, Vineyard Haven, Che’s was quickly embraced by local poets and musicians seeking serious listeners. The coffee house became the unofficial home of a rising generation of songwriters and instrumentalists with deep Island roots including Nina Violet, Willy Mason, Milo Silva, and Noah Maxner.

Michele Jones of Oak Bluffs is among those who will miss the place: “I’m a music teacher,” she said. “Che’s Lounge provided my young students with a performance setting where they could go, interact, and express themselves in a way that’s unavailable anywhere else on the Island.”

Concerts, CD releases, poetry readings and slams, skits, dance parties, salsa lessons — even teen AA meetings — were held in this funky, candlelit space hung with experimental art. The windows were draped in velvet curtains and the Victorian couches upholstered in exotic fabrics, for a look that was once described as “New Orleans bordello.” Some of the ambience was influenced by dressmaker Chrysal Parrot, PJ’s wife and partner, whose workshop occupied the upstairs loft.

The final weekend at Che’s will be marked by a CD release party for the high school band Pierre, Saturday night, May 29 at 8, followed on Sunday morning by a massive “tent sale” in the courtyard. Fittingly, the tent sale will reflect all the different entities that have coexisted in that location: bistro furniture and memorabilia; Chrysal Parrot’s dressmaking inventory; and even the remaining grills, stoves, and patio furniture from Vineyard Alternative Heating, which briefly found a home in the loft after relocating from All Things Oriental on Beach Road.

Is there any chance of saving Che’s? “Never say never,” said Mr. Woodford. “If a committed backer or business partner were to come along, we could still have a serious conversation.” But for now, Che’s will go dark on June 1.