Ready for a comeback.

Save for a short-lived Summer Pop-Up Tiki Bar for food and beverage takeout in June 2020, and the more recent construction of its newly covered outdoor patio, the Sweetwater Music Hall has been the sound of silence for the duration of the pandemic.

​But after a painful, largely music-free 15-plus months at Mill Valley’s venerable music venue, the Sweetwater’s leaders are laying the groundwork for a raucous comeback. They’re ​embracing its newly minted nonprofit entity in addition to the venue to further their education and community arts initiativesexpanding its dining room, brightening the venue with lighter flooring and clearer windows and readying an announcement in early July for a lineup of new live shows that kick off over Labor Day weekend and run into 2022.

PictureSweetwater Music Hall GM Maria Hoppe. Courtesy image.

At the helm is general manager Maria Hoppe, a nearly 30-year music industry veteran who says she’s thrilled for the opportunity to lead the Sweetwater’s coming out party. 

​”It’s an honor, honestly,” says Hoppe, who first made her name in the business working for former longtime Journey manager Herbie Herbert. “This is a legendary place, and I get to bring it back to life after the pandemic.”

Hoppe noted that the Sweetwater’s new non-profit entity allows it to significantly expand its education programming with local schools. “That’s always been part of the fabric of the Sweetwater but now, with the new non-profit, becoming a true community arts organization, not just a venue with a bar, is incredibly important,” she said.

Hoppe has Bay Area roots and got a degree in art history at Dominican University while also serving as a nighttime assistant at legendary Marin musician Narada Michael Walden‘s Tarpan Studios – “I’d wait for instructions while I studied,” she says. After her years with Herbert, she and her husband launched One Step Management.

“We’re going to continue to be true to what I see as the being the core voice of this incredible venue, and that’s Americana, roots music and singer-songwriters,” Hoppe says. “But we do have an interest in bringing in new bands and branching out with other forms of rock.”

Former Mill Valley Mayor Dennis Fisco, the chair of the venue’s board of directors, said the group began making headway on expanding the palette of the Sweetwater over the past year. They hired executive chef Rick Hackett, a well-known presence in the Bay Area for his time as the chef and owner of Bocanova in Oakland’s Jack London Square and executive chef at MarketBar in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The menu will be small plates but more refined than in the past, with an expanded food and beverage menu.

In addition to the aforementioned outdoor patio, which has a retractable, weather-proof awning and adds nearly 60 seats to its smallish dining room, they’ll also using the music venue space for dining on non-show nights. 

Hoppe noted that the Sweetwater’s nonprofit status allows it to significantly expand its education programming with local schools. “That’s always been part of the fabric of the Sweetwater but now as we’re operating as a nonprofit, becoming a true community arts organization, not just a venue with a bar, in incredibly important.”

​In announcing the nonprofit status, the Sweetwater team wrote, “The mission of our new non-profit is to ensure the infinite legacy of Sweetwater, not only by continuing to support the music that reflects the cultural diversity of Marin County and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, but also by showcasing all forms of arts and education to future generations. Since the original Sweetwater first opened its doors in 1972, and throughout the journey to our current state-of-the-art location, our iconic Sweetwater stage has hosted legends. And like you, we’ve missed these artists and all the others who have graced our venue. But our who’s-who of rock & roll history is only part of our story. Because Sweetwater is community. It’s education. A center of belonging. Everyone is always welcome. Arms, hearts, and minds wide open.”

Stay tuned for more info about the Sweetwater in the coming weeks.


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