‘We’re not saying goodbye forever, hopefully just for now:’ Grog Shop pauses programming once again

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Once again, the Grog Shop’s programming has been put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with its sister business the B-Side Liquor Lounge. Both businesses are located in the same building at 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Heights’ Coventry neighborhood.

The venues announced on Wednesday, Nov. 18 that their programming would be postponed due to recent surges in coronavirus transmission in Ohio.

“I sort of foresaw this [surge] happening a bit, but not to this extreme,” said Kathy Blackman, the owner of Grog Shop and B-Side, in a phone call. “I was hoping, and I know everyone has mixed opinions on this — I wish there would have been a more mandated shutdown for everybody. It seems like we’d have a better chance of getting things under control if there were more drastic measures.”

She added: “We’re not saying goodbye forever, hopefully just for now.”

The pause on Grog Shop and B-Side’s programming includes a weekly limited concert series, formerly set to run through the end of the year. The concerts featured steeply reduced capacity and performances by local musicians like Niights, Oregon Space Trail of Doom and Punch Drunk Tagalongs.

The small concert series wasn’t the most sustainable, but it was something the venue was trying out during the pandemic, Blackman said.

“Only being open three to four hours in the evening, it isn’t going to get you too far, realistically, Blackman said. “It’s not a viable model for us. It was never a great model for us, but we elected to try it.”

The series was funded by an Ioby fundraiser, which brought in more than $13,000. That money, Blackman said, will still be used for future shows when they return. If COVID-19 case numbers are reduced, she said she may opt to bring the series back, but for now things will remain on hold for the foreseeable future.

“At this point I’m not going to do anything until we’re sure it’s safe and it’s viable and people are comfortable coming out, my staff is comfortable being there and bands are comfortable playing,” Blackman said.

Blackman and other independent music venue owners have worked since this spring to get financial relief from federal or state programs, pushing for bills like “Save Ohio Stages” and more, but so far nothing has come through, Blackman said.

Other grassroots efforts have helped local venues, including an ongoing music memorabilia auction that will donate 100% of its earnings to local live music venues. Blackman listed several Grog Shop items, including a “golden ticket pass” that will get the holder and a guest into any Grog Shop concert for an entire year.

The auction continues until Sunday, Nov. 22.

The event will help the Grog Shop, but Blackman pointed out that the live music industry has been thrown endless challenges throughout the pandemic. She related the difficulty with a stark analogy: “death by a thousand cuts.”

“You can’t dance, can’t gather en masse, and that’s really what both of my businesses promote, rightly so. And when you’re able to do it, that’s what we’re there for. None of this really works for us,” Blackman said. “COVID is not our friend.”

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