On Oct. 24, he officially unveiled the Reap & Sow Coffee Shop and Rebel Lounge bar. Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the business sells coffee and pastries in the morning before transitioning to a bar in the evening. The partners purchased new furniture, repainted the interior and installed skylights for daytime use. Due to Rebel Lounge’s ample space, with a capacity of 300, customers can eat and drink at socially distanced tables, complying with state safety guidelines.

“Compared with a bar lounge or a coffee shop, we’re a pretty large space. But as far as a venue, we’re small enough that we can try something like this,” says Chilton. “A lot of venues, it doesn’t make sense to do this kind of pivot because you’re just too big.”

As vice president of the nonprofit organization National Independent Venue Association, which launched in March and focuses on obtaining significant federal funding for indie music venues, Chilton has seen other spaces make changes of their own: from outdoor shows to hosting audience-free livestreams to becoming restaurants. But he also understands that investing money into a temporary idea — like his own costs to remodel and market the transformed Rebel Lounge — could be riskier than holding out for the Save Our Stages Act or other federal aid. “I worry that doing some of these ideas badly might be worse than not being open at all,” says Chilton, whose Psyko Steve Presents promotes into nearly every other Arizona club.

“If the SOS Act passes after the election and we can get some capital into all these venues, then that’s exactly what that grant is for,” he says. “It’s for everyone to experiment, try some of these ideas and be able to bring people back to work.”Chilton already hopes to continue operating Reap & Sow even after he can welcome musicians back to the stage. He envisions few implications, other than the bar’s hours potentially pushing back sound checks to a later time slot once live music does return, but says, “That’s so far away.”

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 14, 2020 issue of Billboard.


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