Conor Byrne employees form cooperative to keep the pub alive after recent closure

A group of Conor Byrne Pub employees are banding together to form a cooperative to keep the 125-year-old bar open.

Conor Byrne announced its plans to close about a month ago, much to the dismay of Ballardites and local artists.

But now, it looks like the Conor Byrne may yet hang on.

“As rising costs and changes in post pandemic behaviors threaten the traditional bar and venue business model, a coalition of current employees, musicians and community members are banding together to do something different—a community-owned music bar—Conor Byrne Cooperative,” the cooperative announced in an emailed statement.

“The March 2024 announcement that the venue would close was met with an outpouring of love, grief and nostalgic memories from bands and community members across social media. Musicians talked about playing their first songs at Conor Byrne’s now legendary open mic night, while many lamented about losing the space where they’d met so many friends and partners, or how it was such a welcoming space for them when they first moved to this city,” the cooperative said.

Seattle musician Tomo Nakayama spoke about how the closure would impact local artists. “A whole lotta bands are about to lose an important stage when Conor Byrne closes.” Nakayama said. 

“Spaces like Conor Byrne are part of a greater ecosystem – the bigger stages can’t exist without these community spaces where bands can grow.”  

The cooperative organizers are Adria Dukich (longtime Conor Byrne operating manager), Dan Sodomka (bartender/musician), and Maria Rocco, who will run security and operations. They plan to run the cooperative on a membership model: In their vision, Conor Byrne will be a neighborhood bar and music venue open to everyone, “owned by the employees and the people who love it, patronize it, and the musicians who play there.” They say the Conor Byrne owners and landlords support the idea, and plan to become members themselves.

Other businesses that operate on a co-op model such as Flying Bike Brewery in Greenwood inspired the organizers to launch the cooperative.

“By fostering ownership and community involvement, Conor Byrne can continue being a vibrant hub for live music in Seattle. It feels empowering to give the community a voice and take action together—this is bigger than any single individual,” Dukich said. 

“We hope that Conor Byrne Cooperative can be a positive example of how creative spaces in our city can evolve and thrive.”

The Northwest Community Development Center, a nonprofit cooperative incubator based in Olympia, is fiscally-sponsoring the cooperative during the transition, including facilitating a tax-deductible donation.

The Conor Byrne Cooperative is fundraising $40,000 by May 1st for legal and start-up costs. To contribute or learn more, visit their website.

The organizers are hopeful they’ll be able to open back up as soon as May or June if they can fundraise quickly enough.