The arts and cultural scene suffered a heavy loss last week when the owners of the Patio, for 40 years the premier music club in Broad Ripple, will cease operations at the end of November. "Based on the market, the Patio has not been doing the business it used to in past years, and sales have continued to decline," said Matt Schwegman of the Patio, in a written statement. "It is strictly a business decision and no other factors weighed into the decision."
On Sunday, people were already moving out equipment and gear in preparation for the club's closing.
Going into the Patio's space will be a new club operated by David and Maggie Lee, owners of Naked Tchopstix in Broad Ripple. When contacted on Monday morning, Maggie Lee said plans had not been finalized on what format the club will take.
For a music scene already battered by the probable demise of the Midwest Music Summit, numerous band breakups and the effects of the Bush economy on nightlife spending, it's perhaps the worst news yet.
My own history with the Patio extends back to within days of my 21st birthday, when I saw Henry Lee Summer play there. In the 19 years since, I've attended hundreds of shows at the Patio, drank numerous beverages, kissed many pretty girls and heard some of the best live music of my life.
The news of the Patio's death is like a punch to the face. As the years went by and Broad Ripple transformed from a bohemian arts community to a corporately controlled alcohol-consumption environment, the Patio was always there.
Through good times and bad, the Patio was always an oasis of rock in a cultural desert. And, although Schwegman says the Vogue, the Patio's sister club, will book more live music and feature "Patio-type" bands, the ambience of the Patio made it the best club to see rock and roll.
According to Schwegman, the Patio began its history as a bar and live music club in 1950 as the Terrace Lounge. That name changed to Lazas Cocktail Lounge in 1954. In 1955 it became the Pink Squirrel. In 1960 it became The Doris in Broad Ripple. The name of the Patio began in 1962 when it was named Jim Moore's Patio Bar, which was only about half the size it is now. As smaller businesses moved out of the building, the Patio expanded into their space.
Around 1977, the Patio became the size it is today under the ownership of Arthur "Chubby" Wadsworth. Chubby was a well-known character in and around Broad Ripple. He ran the Patio with the help of Tyrone Tice and Randy Roy. They operated as the Patio Lounge with live rock bands. At that time, the Patio was one of only three live music clubs in Broad Ripple. These three included the Vogue, the Patio and the Garage. (The Garage operated out of where Cardinal Fitness is now.) In 1985, Chubby sold the Patio to Randy Roy. Then in 1987, Randy sold the Patio Lounge to Steve Ross and Dennis Burris. They called it the Patio Nightclub, but most people just call it "the Patio."
Local music message boards were abuzz over the weekend about the death of the Patio and what will replace it. Most people seemed pessimistic that the new owners would feature any live music. The consensus seemed to be that an upscale nightspot would take its place.
The beauty of the Patio was that it always was the opposite of upscale. While you certainly found "the beautiful people" in attendance, it was a home to punk rockers, metalheads and the type of wonderful misfits who make a cultural scene interesting.
Of all my Patio memories, perhaps my most favorite was the fateful night in 2002 when The Slurs played the Battle of the Bands and blew me away with the power and the passion of their music. I hadn't seen them before and to experience such a charismatic, blunt performance was astonishing. At the end of the set, lead singer Justin Allen covered himself with baby oil and glitter. Pieces of that glitter remained in the carpet for months afterward as a reminder of their performance.
You could stock several all-star bands with the people who met in the narrow alleyway behind the Patio to share a smoke and a conversation.
Then there was the one and only appearance by the notorious band dearnt at the Battle the same year. Part performance art, part noise, part shock-rock, their set made me feel intoxicated even though I was stone sober. I remember Gwen Noel and I bashing the shit out of a boombox at the front of the stage, and me trying to set the lead singer on fire. It was just one of those nights.
This is a developing story and, in the weeks to come, we'll be sharing others' Patio memories. Feel free to send your favorite Patio memory to me at email@example.com
For now, though, the news is just a shock to all of us who care about the artistic and cultural scene of Indianapolis. The other stages of the grieving process will soon follow.
Goodbye, Patio. We loved you. And we'll miss you.