In Memoriam: Mike Winters, Founder of Manny’s Car Wash, Manager of The Capitol Theatre and Staple of the Live Music Scene

July 3, 2018

A crucial figure of the New York live music scene, Mike Winters passed away on July 1. He was 52.

In the summer of 1989, Winters opened Manny’s Car Wash with his brother Brad in Manhattan. A genuine blues club, Manny’s hosted up-and-comers and legends alike, and always reserved Sunday nights for freeform blues jams, where anyone could drop in and play.

“Brad and Mike were Deadheads that somehow got control of a live music bar,” guitarist Jimmy Vivino recalls warmly. “They made us – all who played there – feel like we were getting away with something. Jamming and sit ins were encouraged and happened nightly like no other bar in Manhattan.”

Located in the heart of the Upper East Side, Manny’s was once described by the New York Times as an oasis of great live music in “a sea of preppy bars.”

Later in life, Winters joined the team at the famed Capitol Theatre, just as owner Peter Shapiro and GM Tom Bailey were getting the venue’s renovations underway. Winters’ multi-faceted knowledge of the industry and his passion for music made him an indispensable asset to The Cap, until his retirement in 2017.

“There’s so many details that go into making the place run smoothly and Mike knew every single one of them and how to execute them the best,” The Cap’s marketing director Stefanie May remembers. “Imagine all the preparation that was done to get the theater open and all the tiny details that go into a building being re-opened and put together. Mike was involved in all of that.”

According to May, if something was broken, Mike knew how to fix it, and he did so with wisdom, grace and humor. He was the “keeper” of The Cap and “one of those Dead fans who can tell you when the Dead retired a song for a while and the exact date and show that they started playing it again.”

Head usher Brian Lynch worked closely with Winters and fondly remembers his sincerity, his leadership and his ever-present smile. “He really took me under his wing while I worked there and was the biggest advocate for me and the entire ushering crew. He put everything he had into keeping The Cap operating smoothly regardless of the level of challenge,” he says. “He became my advice and counsel for not only work but life as well.”

Mike is survived by his wife Lara, his two children, his friends at The Capitol Theatre and the music he loved so much.

“Mike Winters was the soul of the NYC live music scene,” Shapiro adds. “From creating the legendary Manny’s Car Wash with his brother, Brad, to the essential role he played at the heart of the renovation, opening and operation of The Capitol Theatre, Mikey was there. I will forever miss his laid-back style, his baseball caps, his love of his family, his love of the blues guitar and those who play it really well, his love of great music venues and caring for them, and his love of quietly doing the right thing, all the time.”

The Cap Crew at Phil Lesh’s Central Park Performance, 2014. Mike Winters, front and center. Photo by Dino Perrucci
Mike Winters and The Capitol Theatre’s General Manager Tom Bailey (l-r)
Former Director of Operations Scott Raved and Winters in front of Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre (l-r)