How to survive when your favorite bar shuts down

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Gotta find another bar. This one's finished. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more, and he's got all the advice your life can handle.

Dear Door Guy:

It’s 3 a.m. and tears are running down my face because I’m so damn sad because I have been going to this venue since I was a kid and it was the first place I ever saw an all-ages show and it’s where I celebrated my 21st birthday and I’ve had first dates and breakups there and one time a girl offered me tacos at the bar for no reason except she was on a bad Tinder date and needed someone to talk to and all my favorite bands have played there over the years and now it’s gonna close and I feel like an essential part of my life is flying out the window and my memories aren’t going to be real anymore because it is gone so sorry about the grammar I have been drinking but I don’t know how to move on and what am I supposed to do now that my favorite venue is closed?

--Seeing Double

Dear Seeing Double:

First of all, as an avowed, dedicated, committed, whathaveyou disciple of the endless multi-parenthetical run-on sentence, your question is amazing, and I hope you write like that when you’re sober, too.

I’ve written about people breaking up with their favorite bar in the past and I was tempted to just copy that advice because I’m a little overtired and hungover from last night—I’m assuming that’s how you feel, right?—but honestly, upon thinking about it, I don’t think it’s the same thing at all.

Plenty of bars have gone through changes, evolved, gone from cover band to local bands to national bands, and those things are all part of a growth cycle. During the life of a venue, attachments are made, new scenes are created, old scenes expand and contract—it’s a living, breathing thing, and some of my favorite venues are places where you’d want to hang out even if absolutely nothing is going on. There’s a vibrancy there that turns into legacy after enough time. You can smell it clinging to the walls—because, if the place is old enough, it’s stuck there by years of cigarette tar.

But when a venue dies? That’s not a life cycle, that’s death. Lately in Minneapolis we’ve had venues die because of terrible owners. Most recently, we’ve had a venue close because it was just time to move on. And while I’m not particularly sad about the former examples, I’m definitely broken up about the latter. So I feel your pain.

But a venue doesn’t have to shut down for it to die. Some places are venues by choice, some by accident. Accidental venues are usually held together by the hard work and commitment of people who have little to do with the ownership of the actual bar. Your former favorite dive bar that had a good run of shows five years ago and you haven’t been there since? That venue died when the people who cared left.

The difference with a place like Triple Rock—where, I assume, you enjoy seeing double, Seeing Double—is that it was built from the ground up to be a haven and gathering place, that put music and community at its forefront, rather than an afterthought. That combination of venue and gathering place is an increasingly rare unicorn in our on-demand world, and as a guy who’s worked for many venues here and across the country, including a couple that, like Triple Rock, were built for the very same reasons, I’m feeling the loss incredibly hard, even if I was never one of the Door Guy Guild Lifers there.

Shit, now I’m feeling as sad as you did at 3 a.m. You wanna go grab a drink?

A lotta folks have had things to say about Triple Rock lately, on Facebook, on Twitter, and even here. A lot more folks have come out of the woodwork to get one last chance—or, seemingly, their first trip—to the venue. I’m not the kind of Door Guy who spends a lot of time out when he’s not working, but I’ve been trying to stop in to pay respects like everyone else. Still, I can’t feel like I, and many others, are culpable in letting Triple Rock go, taking it for granted, expecting it to be around forever.

Part of me feels angry (because I’m an angry person, no matter how many meditation classes I take at Door Guy Guild Hall) that Triple Rock is going away next Tuesday, because there’s something that feels too little, too late about people stuffing themselves into normally low-drawing ska shows just to say they were there one last time. I can’t help but think it feels a little ghoulish, like tourists at a wake. I’m thrilled that the worker bees at Triple Rock are getting paid with all this action, but obviously, it would be better if they’d just been that busy all along.

But it’s those worker bees, from the swamper to the owners, from the door guys to the sound guys to the cook guys, and all managers past and present (and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Dave Welte and all the other managers whose hard work made the place what it was at its best) that are what I cling to. What made the venue was the people, not the location. Those folks felt like family. So don’t cry, Seeing Double. Fight through the crowds for one last show, or hang out for bands and DJs on Monday. Have a few drinks and tip excessively. And know that while you won’t be able to go to Triple Rock Social Club again, you’re not going to lose your memories. Every time you see one of those worker bees around—and you will see them around—you’ll always know that you shared in something special. It’s not moving on, it’s carrying forward.

 


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