The small Capitol Hill company behind ‘the top musical act in the US’

Before The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” became a multi-platinum hit, the band was making the rounds in Denver. They had posted a video on YouTube of themselves performing an acoustic version of the song in an apartment. In 2011, Capitol Hill management company Onto Entertainment liked what it saw — and heard.

Today, Onto’s roster includes The Lumineers, Seattle-based Hey Marseilles and poet and spoken word artist Andrea Gibson. And that’s probably as big as Onto is going to get for the time being – all three acts are touring in support of new work this year.

“I think we’re in a really good, sweet spot right now in terms of clients,” said Christen Greene, general manager and head of talent for Onto. “Our model is low-overhead, hard work and clients that we love.”

The path to becoming “the top musical act in the U.S.” and a Billboard No. 1 ranking for The Lumineers shows how it works. At the time the band was signed, Onto owner David Meinert also headed had previously organized the Capitol Hill Block Party, so convincing the folk-rock group to play the show was an obvious opportunity. Soon after they were in town, John Richards at KEXP was the first to play the group, followed by airplay on 107.7 KNDD, one of the first commercial stations to play the song, Meinert said. UPDATE: We erroneously reported Meinert was still running CHBP in 2012 — producer and Meinert business partner Jason Lajeunesse took over the festival that year.

After that, it wasn’t too long before the band blew up, and the 11th Ave-based Onto had stars on its roster.

Meinert started Onto a label and management company about eight years ago, though now, they only work on the management end.

“We started with the idea of finding small bands and developing them,” Meinert said.

Managing acts is a step removed from most of the individual components that goes into a successful group. Meinert agreed with the suggestion that their role is like that of a general contractor in a construction project. They don’t do the specialized work, but they are able to find the right people who can. He said their responsibility is to help the band find deals with a record label, a booking agent, a touring crew, accountant, publicist and more.

“We oversee all of the business end,” he said.

Onto also fields requests from other businesses that want to use an artist’s work. Meinert said it has been interesting to see the change in attitudes toward artists licensing their songs, as the Lumineers did for a beer commercial.

There had been a time when popular bands resisted commercials for fear of being called sellouts. Now, he said, artists are more willing to consider the option. Besides opening a new revenue stream, it can help with exposure, since someone can let phone apps like Shazam help them identify and purchase the songs.

“The right commercial with the right song can really make the song a hit,” he said.

The right company is key, Greene said. She noted that they are frequently fielding offers from companies looking to use their artists work, and many times, they don’t even bother wasting an artist’s time by telling them an offer has come in.

“We turn down a lot,” she said.

Greene said all the artists they work with are willing to trust them, even if that means pushing them a bit. Gibson, for example, had been making the rounds doing college shows, but Green convinced the artist to consider playing larger venues.

“Andrea wasn’t super-excited about doing clubs,” Greene said.

But after a bit of prodding, Gibson played Seattle’s Town Hall and was able to sell 800 tickets to a show on a Monday night.

Some of that can be chalked up to Seattle being a performance-friendly town. A Capitol Hill home base also helps. Meinert noted that there are three record stores (an endangered species in most cities) near the Onto office.

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Princes of Pike/Pine tapped to take over longtime Canterbury space

A project that never happened

I’m often looking at new projects. This one was close to my heart as I used to live down the street and hang out here. Jason and I had different visions for it, and in the end it didn’t pencil. We were also afraid of noise issues with the residents upstairs, so we ended up passing. James Snyder who owns Sam’s Tavern and Mike Meckling who is partners in Neumos, ended up taking the space. It lasted for 4 years or so and then sold to another partnership. It seems like a great place still, worth checking out. – David Meinert

Posted on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 – 11:30 am by jseattle

The Capitol Hill Block Party is coming to 15th Ave E.

Capitol Hill Housing announced Wednesday that it is working out a lease with business partners David Meinert and Jason Lajeunesse for taking over the longtime home of The Canterbury at 15th Ave E and E Mercer in the nonprofit housing developer’s Fredonia building.

CHS reported on the end of the run for the 37-year-old dive bar earlier this year as longtime Canterbury owners Stefanie and David Roberge announced they could not afford to make a bid to remain in the space after their current 10-year lease draws to a close at the end of 2013. Faced with community concern about losing the relatively affordable watering hole, the nonprofit housing developer issued “a limited Request for Proposals” to restaurateurs who expressed interest with the goal of maintaining the space as a food and drink establishment — “a comfortable, accessible, third place” suitable for “a variety of income levels.”

Meinert and Lajeunesse are longtime players in the Capitol Hill entertainment economy. While Lajeunesse has taken over the reins of the annual Capitol Hill Block Party, he and Meinert have continued to collaborate on food and drink establishments including the May opening of 24-hour diner Lost Lake.


The foray onto 15th Ave E will be a first for the duo. The eastward direction is also a bit of a trend for some of the Hill’s most notable entrepreneurs including Linda Derschang who will open Tallulah’s on 19th Ave E this fall.

Meinert and Lajeunesse were selected in part because of their community vision for the space, a statement from Capitol Hill Housing said. The statement said the duo — who also are part of ownership behind Big Mario’s New York Style Pizza, NeumosOnto Entertainment “and other local businesses” — would like to explore keeping the Canterbury name and having an expanded family seating area.

CHH said it hopes to reach a lease agreement for the new project this summer and begin renovations in early 2014 after the Canterbury in its classic iteration says goodbye.

Dive Bars Bring in the Light

By Mike Seely | The New York Times

Two gloves, a dustpan, a onetime-use broom and some cleaning solution: In Chicago, that’s what the Health Department refers to as a vomit and diarrhea cleanup kit. And until a loathsome regular named COVID sidled up to the bar, Scott Martin, the owner of Simon’s, a beloved Scandinavian dive in the Windy City’s northern reaches, thought a vomit and diarrhea cleanup kit was the most extravagant thing he was required to have on hand in order to keep his very old watering hole in the government’s good graces.
Suffice to say, he no longer feels that way.

While “dive bar” is mostly a term of endearment these days, even the upper echelon of such dark, dank drinking establishments has never been regarded as particularly preoccupied with sparkling tabletops.
Dive bars are lived in, died in, rode hard and put away wet in, laughed and cried in a stranger’s arms in, at once fully yourself and completely anonymous in. They’re where folks go to drink, to lie, to love, to sigh, to put Keith Sweat on the jukebox and have no one ask why.

At Simon’s, Martin moved some of his bar stools into the parking lot and set them up at high-top tables. But that was summer; autumn’s now. He hopes to continue to attract patrons by setting up a large tent with propane heat lamps and fleece blankets, but his real cold-weather draw is glogg, a traditional Swedish concoction that contains red wine, cinnamon, sugar, cloves, oranges, ginger, raisins and bourbon or vodka (take your pick).

“You can stay outside and drink glogg and stay fairly comfortable — until you’ve had too many gloggs, and then you’re freezing,” said Martin, who rang in his 60th birthday by wrestling with a bar patron who repeatedly refused to wear a mask.

While Simon’s was, until recently, able to offer limited seating indoors in addition to its evolving outdoor space, such a plan simply wasn’t feasible for My Brother’s Bar, which, at 167 years of age, is Denver’s oldest continuously operating house of libation.

“The building is extremely old with zero ventilation,” said Danny Newman, the owner, adding that his “summer solution” — picnic tables in the parking lot — “was great.” But now that it’s gotten chillier, Newman has set up plastic igloos, equipped with heaters and exhaust fans, for single-party groups of up to six people.
At first there wasn’t a cap on how much time patrons could spend in the igloos, but after a handful of six-hour hang sessions made it apparent that some imbibers planned to use them as second homes, Newman instituted a 90-minute limit.

Newman added that a nearby restaurant has transformed tiny greenhouses into two-tops so customers can eat outdoors without being bombarded by the elements. Lest anyone wonder whether Colorado’s robust legal marijuana industry has something to do with the ready availability of see-through structures reminiscent of grow houses, Newman said it was.

One of the oldest bars in Seattle, the 5 Point — slogan: “Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929” — has also constructed a cozy, heated outdoor area for its patrons. But now that the wind and rain are whipping around, owner David Meinert doesn’t expect the allure to last long. That’s why he recently upgraded his heating, venting and air-conditioning system with Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) filters to improve air circulation.

With the help of Dr. Bruce Davidson, a pulmonary physician and the former president of the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association, he installed fans and UV-C lights — not to be confused with retina-singeing UV-A and UV-B lights — on the bar’s ceiling.

As Davidson, who became enamored of this specific type of ultraviolet light when he observed how effective it was in the tuberculosis wards of Philadelphia, explained, the fans suck the air that customers exhale straight toward the ceiling.

Should any of those customers unknowingly have the coronavirus, the UV-C lights stop it from spreading, protecting patrons and staff alike. (Such lights are also being used to as a safeguard against the coronavirus in hospitals, schools, restaurants and subway systems, including New York City’s.)

Yet for as confident as Davidson is in UV-C lighting’s ability to slay the coronavirus, he remains a staunch advocate of mask wearing as a means of “source control.” It just so happens Seattle has an indoor mask mandate, something Meinert’s employees aren’t shy about enforcing.

“One of the good things about the 5 Point is people have always gotten thrown out of here,” he said. “We’re not like, ‘The customer’s always right.’”

c.2020 The New York Times Company

Don’t be a Dick, Wear a Mask!

Even Vice President Mike Pence admits it, wearing masks reduces the spread of the coronavirus. 

Florida, Texas and California just closed bars in several counties because of increased new cases of Covid-19. 

PLEASE wear a mask when you are near other people. Period. And when you come into the Mecca Cafe or 5 Point Cafe, we require you to wear one unless you are seated. This means when you get up to use the bathroom and when you are leaving. It’s the law. And it will protect our staff and other customers from getting sick. 

If all of you do this, we won’t have to close again. If you don’t we will. And if we have to close again there might not be a reopening. Just keep that in mind when you visit places you love. If you won’t wear a mask, you could be responsible for putting that place out of business. 

Wearing a mask won’t just keep you and others people from dying, it will keep your favorite locally owned business from dying too. 

AND, IF YOU DON’T HAVE A MASK WITH YOU AND WANT TO COME IN, JUST ASK US FOR A MASK. THANKS TO Public Health – Seattle & King County​ WE HAVE MASKS TO GIVE YOU. Please don’t make our staff become mask police. Just ask for one and wear it. (or be creative like the photo attached).

Don’t be a Dick. Wear a mask.

  • David Meinert

Mecca Cafe Set To Reopen Monday June 8

by David Meinert

So happy we’re finally able to reopen the Mecca Cafe Monday June 8 at 7am! 

We only get 25% capacity in Phase 1 of reopening, and it will look a bit different, but come in to eat and drink, say hello, or order take out. 

Some things to note: you must wear a mask at all times unless seated, and you must use hand sanitizer on your hands on the way in. We’re cashless for the time being so bring a credit or debit card to pay. Menus are online or you can request a single use paper menu if you must. Condiments are single use too (but not online). We ask that if you have to wait for a table you wait outside, safely distanced from others. We’ll also have dividers between tables, booths and seats (they actually look pretty great considering). And if you want to use the jukebox, download Touchtunes because you’ll need to use that. 

Staff will be wearing masks, taking temperatures before coming in, distancing, and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. 

We’re doing all this to comply with CDC and King County health guidance, and to keep you and our staff safe. We appreciate you’re patience and kindness while we implement all the changes and get used to this new rule. 

Hope to see you at the Mecca soon!

David Meinert

We’re Reopening Mecca Cafe’ & 5 Point Cafe’

by David Meinert

We’re reopening The Mecca and 5 Point Cafes soon! Not exactly sure of the date, but soon. And we’re busy making plans for a responsible reopening. In an attempt to inform all of our customers about what we’re doing to keep you and our staff safe, we’ll be posting information about the changes we are making so you don’t get too surprised.

We are so excited to welcome you back. It’s been two months and we miss you all something fierce! We will need your help, your kindness and your patience as we work to follow the guidelines and keep you and our staff safe. Please remember that you can choose to come in or not, and when you do you will only be close to a few other people. But our staff has to do this to pay rent and eat, and they have to deal with and potentially expose themselves up to 100 people or more per day. So in oder to protect everyone we’ll be asking you wear a mask except when you are seated. From entering, until you are at your table, when you get up to pee or when you’re leaving, wear a face covering.

Please be considerate of this rule. It’s not a political statement.. It’s about keeping our staff (several of whom are immune comprised or have family at home that are) and other people safe. Be patient. Be kind. Please don’t be a dick.

We love you! We miss you! Thank you for your continued support! Keep ordering that delivery and take out, and watch for a relaunch of our web store where you’ll be able to get merch and gift cards.

– David Meinert