Bill Welch, longtime owner of Moe's Alley.
Bill Welch, longtime owner of Moe’s Alley.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
City Life

Moe’s Alley, a Santa Cruz music staple, is changing ownership

The venue announced on Twitter that longtime owner Bill Welch is selling the business.

After 28 years under the guidance of veteran show producer Bill Welch, the landmark midcounty music club Moe’s Alley is changing hands.

Welch announced on Monday that he is stepping away from his role as the club’s owner/operator, and turning over the reigns to Lisa Norelli, the long-time general manager at Moe’s, and musician and promoter Brian Ziel.

“We started talking about this before the pandemic,” said Welch, who opened the club with his partner Phil Lewis in 1992 and took over sole ownership about a decade later. Since then, he’s presided over roughly 7,500 live shows at Moe’s.

“Brian and Lisa, they’re really good friends, and they’re both huge music lovers. And that’s what I wanted, to pass it along to someone who was going to do the right thing.”

Moe’s opened as a blues club that allowed older blues musicians to connect with younger audiences during the blues revival of the 1990s. Later, the club evolved to embrace a wide variety of styles, from roots reggae to New Orleans funk to country/folk.

Norelli and Ziel said that they will not institute any broad, sweeping changes in programming at Moe’s, continuing on in the eclectic tradition of roots music, but perhaps adding in punk, ska, and other forms of music to appeal to younger musicians.

Moe’s Alley has been closed since the pandemic shutdown began in March 2020. Norelli and Ziel said there is no timeline yet to reopen. They said they would begin improvements in the patio space, anticipating outdoor shows as early as the summer.

“It would be great if we could open this summer, but we’re not going to announce any timeline because it doesn’t seem fair, given what everyone is going through,” said Norelli.