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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Small Business Death Rattle

I like to think that I am an economically rational person, but I occasionally invest in things that are pretty shaky. In 2003, I became aware of an undercapitalized guy who was trying to open a blues club in my hometown. Now, I have longed to have a local blues club in my 'hood for a very long time (I am a knucklehead for the blues - what can I say?). I knew that the odds are long against the success of such an enterprise, but I figured out how much money I could afford to lose, got together with a couple of like-minded friends and put the dough in. The club opened in August 2003 and I have had a marvelous time hanging out there, hearing people like James Cotton, Rod Piazza, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Carey Bell, L'il Ed and the Blues Imperials, Eddy "the Chief" Clearwater -- and many others. I have also hopped up on stage and played some harmonica, sang some songs, and made a complete fool of myself.

The club has struggled from the very first. The operator was over-optimistic about revenues and over-generous on expenses. The Northwestern University community was a big part of the business plan, but the college kids ain't down with the blues anymore. The manager of the club has made many mid-course corrections, but we continue to chase break-even. He raised additional money (including a little more from me), but the well now looks dry. Unless something positive happens soon, the place will probably die over the summer. Last month, the club lacked the money to pay certain amounts to the State of Illinois (the liquor retailer's license fee went unpaid, which causes problems in the booze supply chain. The bar was running out of booze!). Well, the operator managed to scape together enough money to pay the state and we have product on the shelves again. A massive influx of thirsty people is required to get some air under the wings of this sick little business. I think I hear death rattling in the bar.

I think this place enriches our community. It is a dirty shame that the community doesn't care enough to support it.


Anonymous said...

You should name the name of the club. Why should it be secret? I hope it works out for you.

Mr. G said...

Thanks for your comment. I am holding back the name of the club to lessen the pressure on the manager. He is working his butt off and reaching the max stress point.

Mr. G