In this month’s Know Your Venue: This year marks the 10th anniversary for the sophisticated, yet rustic Rontoms.
The building has been a rock venue on a spacious plot of NE Sandy Boulevard for decades, and some people may have questions about why the sign out front has changed a few times. I’ll answer these questions quickly, because all we really care about is that it’s The Tonic again.
A couple of years ago, the venue was in need of renovations. Enter a reality TV show that shall not be named, which turned The Tonic into some place called The Panic Room, which is probably the worst name for a bar ever. It wasn’t well-received, and in a last attempt to rebrand their business, the owners at the time tried the venue as The Raven. But it didn’t last long, and after its New Year’s Eve 2016 show, the business was closed.
Now that that’s cleared up, we can talk about the new sign. This spring, the venue was purchased by Eric Manfre, the owner of High Water Mark Lounge, and Chris Trumpower, who was working as a booker and sound engineer for both High Water Mark and The Panic Room/Raven. The old Tonic Lounge sign was bright and bubbly, kind of like ‘90s clipart, but the new sign is more of a classic, apothecary tonic style. It shares a rune with its sister venue, High Water Mark, which applies to The Tonic just as much, if not more, because the symbol stands for “new awakening.”
There hasn’t been much time to redecorate in the transition. “We un-lamed it,” says Trumpower, as he explains that new ownership ripped out the stainless steel that had covered the natural wood. Currently, the venue is painted black, with a sitting area, fireplaces, and small bar up front. The back of house is still a huge cave of space with games, cocktail tables, and a long bar, leading into a deep performance room.
One change is that visitors will only pay a cover if they want to enter the performance space.
“We want to focus more on being a neighborhood bar with a good patio, good food, good beers, good service,” Trumpower says. “We are going for a way more chill vibe.”
The Tonic’s new menu currently features tacos and an array of Banh Mi sandwiches. It will mirror the acclaimed fare at High Water Mark Lounge.
“It was always a great venue,” Trumpower says, “and the changes didn’t really matter anyway, because everyone still called it The Tonic.”
Trumpower, who has worked sound and booked for lost clubs Satyricon and Plan B, helped to design the all-new sound system, which includes high-end McCauley subs and line array speakers, and a massive drum monitor. It’s more than accommodating for a venue of its size, but fits the bill of dark, heavy, and experimental underground music.
Sandy Boulevard was once dotted with punk clubs like EJ’s, Club 21, and The Blackbird (now The Know). With The Know as new neighbors, Sandy Hut and Chopsticks still carrying on, and The Tonic back in business, it’s a new era of Sandy Boulevard awesomeness.»