St. Pete's Garage Bar likely to close in August
Georgia alt-country troubador Don Chambers was scheduled to play a show July 10 at the Garage Bar in St. Petersburg. But when fans showed up that night, the bar was closed. Chambers‚Äô show had been moved to Pastimes Pub in Sarasota.
In a blog post the day before, Chambers blamed the move on "last minute rock n roll stuff." But it looks like there was a bigger issue at hand ‚Äî namely, that the Garage may be on its last legs as a venue.
The word from multiple promoters and agents is that owner Marty Schwab (above, at center) has suddenly decided to close the Garage, a rockabilly and punk music club on Central Avenue, at the beginning of August.
"I‚Äôm currently talking with somebody about them purchasing the Garage," Schwab said Monday afternoon. "If the interested parties, if we can come to some terms, then the Garage will remain open. If not, then the Garage will be closing its doors Aug. 2."
Schwab said business has been okay at the venue, even though it doesn‚Äôt have a liquor licence, and is open only on concert nights. But he‚Äôs become disillusioned with the St. Pete scene in the past few months. Specifically, he cited several fistfights that have taken place outside his club as prime reasons why he's ready to pack it in.
"It‚Äôs hard for me to draw a crowd into the Garage when there‚Äôs rumblings of a shooting that‚Äôs happening out front," he said. "It‚Äôs hard for me to conduct business when people are afraid to come to the 600 block (of Central) in St. Pete."
Area promoters say they‚Äôve had no problems working with Schwab or the Garage in the past. Kate O‚ÄôShea of Poor House Productions and Hellgrass Bluebilly Florida, which booked a concert at the Garage July 8, said about 35-40 people showed up to that show, including some postgame Rays fans from the Trop, and that it was "a pretty good night."
The Don Chambers show was a different story. Brett Steele, who was promoting the Chambers gig, said he was unable to reach Schwab for days leading up to the show, which forced the last-minute change of venues.
"I‚Äôve done probably a dozen shows with him there, and never had a problem, so I was a little shocked that he wouldn‚Äôt at least have the courtesy to let me know what was going on prior," Steele said. "If he would have, it wouldn‚Äôt have been any big deal. I could have moved it to another venue. But we had a lot of advertising, plus there were things in the St. Pete Times and Creative Loafing. It just makes everybody look bad, when it could have easily been avoided with picking up the phone or sending me an e-mail a couple of weeks prior."
(Schwab, for his part, said the Chambers show didn‚Äôt happen due to "personal, private reasons.")
The Garage‚Äôs greaser aesthetic, good stage and sound system and funky, Vitale Brothers art on the walls made it a cool venue for oddball rock, punk and rockabilly acts like Buckethead, the Legendary Shack Shakers, the Vibrators and more.
Schwab said he‚Äôs been approached about replicating the concept in another city out west. If he does in fact leave Tampa Bay, he offered a few parting words regarding the local music scene.
"I moved from Seattle, which is a music-rich town," he said. "And I moved to St. Pete thinking there was some culture down there, and I could bring maybe some different acts in. Some have hit, some have missed. That‚Äôs kind of the name of the business, how it goes. ...
"Unfortunately, I don‚Äôt think there‚Äôs enough good local music. There‚Äôs a lot of local music, but in my opinion, I don‚Äôt know that there‚Äôs a lot of good local music. There are a handful of amazing local bands that I thoroughly enjoy and are welcomed at my place anytime. But I wish there was more of that, because if that were the case, then I wouldn‚Äôt have to rely so heavily on a lot of these touring acts. But that‚Äôs just not the case.
"I guess I was trying to set a standard at the Garage, (and) maybe I set the standard a little too high, because there were a lot of bar bands wanting to play the Garage. In my eyes, I‚Äôm not a bar, I‚Äôm a venue, and it‚Äôs a nice stage for local acts to get out there. But you know as well as I, a band could be the next Led Zeppelin ‚Äî but if no one‚Äôs there to hear them, who cares?"
The next show at the Garage is local band Cope on Saturday. Tickets are $7 at the door.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo (2008) by Leigh Armstrong, tbt*.