Old 9th December 2012, 01:51   #1
swingdjted
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A sad time for Youngstown, OH, USA

http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/dec/0...hutter-cedars/

An "underground" club is dying after being an important stepping stone for metal, indie, and punk bands and local painters for decades. Cedars Pub and Cafe has had more amazing acts while the bands were still in infancy than anywhere in the entire state.

My screen name is built on the words "Swing DJ Ted". I spent a few years as a weekly Thursday night 10 p.m.-2 a.m. swing dance disc jockey there. Of all the jobs I have ever had, this job was by far best: play damn good music, eat free food, drink free beer, and dance with gorgeous girls dressed up in impressive dance-gowns, and get paid for it.

I also performed there a lot of Tuesday nights on their jazz night, and regularly on weekends with a total of 4 local rock/punk/metal bands from the time I was 16 years old to 21, but also subbed and guest-played until around 25. A lot of my college tuition came from there. When I wasn't performing, I tried to visit there as a customer too as much as possible. Most people who know me say their best times with me were either there or at my camp, which luckily I will likely not lose. I invested a lot of my life in Cedars, and Cedars invested a lot in me.

In addition to the club, which was almost dive-like and humble, a perfect 'underground' setting, the place had a nice patio with all kinds of exotic plants and impressive landscaping making you feel like you were in a tiny jungle. Inside it had dozens of huge paintings that were hung not only to enjoy but to purchase if you liked one enough. Some were giant 5 foot by 7 foot impressionist images of Charlie Parker (Jazz saxophone great), or the Misfits (punk band), or of a rusting steel mill. Some outside were around 20 feet wide and 40 feet tall banners hung on the side of the 4 story building. There was a cafe attached in a different part of the building that served mostly Mediterranean food, still full of great local paintings and sculptures. Each booth had carvings on the wood framework unique to that booth. There were poetry slams, folk bands, performance artists, and damn near anything interesting under the sun there.

This place has survived decades while the copy-cats and competitors have come and gone. A show there is a unique and deeply moving experience that viewers talk about for the rest of their lives, regardless of whether it's punk, jazz, or a string quartet in the jungle like patio.

Prices throughout were affordable, so you could go a lot and not go broke, and the business was doing well despite this and despite a hurting economy. The owner of the building was a family member of the girl running it, and sold it right out from under her for a very low price. The new owner has plans to kick the business out, because it doesn't fit his/her "vision" for the building. That really angers countless people both locally and all over the country. Nobody talked about it being for sale; had I known I could have bought it myself for as low the price was. It would have been worth it to preserve the focus on local art and music and preserve that important piece of Youngstown.

The business is one of the only ones that people feel is worth talking about when outside of the region. The whole city will be different when this place dies or moves. I personally am a mixture of depressed and enraged. This indeed is a very sad time for the city of Youngstown, OH.

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Old 9th December 2012, 11:43   #2
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sold it right out from under her for a very low price
He probably didn't have a choice if he took bottom dollar. I think the bar business is over. Most of the ones here have been bought by Asians, likely with government loans. They don't run a business like you or I could. How good is the chow mein? Which chef did they shanghai?

We've got the Guatemalans and the Koreans, and as families they make a living. But it's not the cash cow it was.

I remember elbow room only bars in 80. Now if you have 50 customers, you've probably got a problem. The country western and blues bar here.... both died of being too popular....

Last edited by rockouthippie; 9th December 2012 at 14:43.
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Old 9th December 2012, 16:35   #3
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To be honest, the place occasionally had a couple problems back in the 1990s with some drugs in the alley behind it, but that was cleaned up by having more cruisers driving through there as part of their routine. The place still fills up almost every night of the week, because the weeknights have specific themes for each day, each with it's own following. The weekends are always bands, sometimes up to 6 or 7 in the same afternoon/night, including Sundays, at the least 2 bands at night. DJ Martini and "Old Man Mondays", Live Jazz combos Tuesdays (very good stuff). Techno/EDM Wednesdays. Swing dancing Thursdays. Bands Fri-Sun. It's generally jam packed then, probably far more than the fire marshal would allow. I still visit over holidays and a lot during the summer.

The guy that ran the business that was referred to in the article with "failing health" issues was the one that I worked for (Tommy). He's the one that really made it what it is, but in 2008, his chronic problems which had been around for years made him stop working, and he turned it over to his daughter that worked there at the time. She's maybe my age or 2-3 years younger than me, and has been able to maintain it well.

The person that sold it isn't poor if it's who I think it is. The person the article says sold it has the same last name. I think it's the grandmother of the girl that has the bar now or mother of the guy that I worked for. They are not hurting financially at all if they're able to live on a few thousand every night of the year and showing up with Corvettes (plural) and behemoth luxury SUVs. A tiny little hunchback lady that used to get the money drawer at the end of last call. I never really talked to her; she wasn't ever there except for maybe a minute per night. Somehow nobody ever fucked with her, even if she had a cane in one hand and a bag of a few thousand bucks in the other hand.

The place was sold for less than $200K. It has 4 floors plus a decent finished basement, and although there's some significant interior renovations needed in the upstairs floors, the main level isn't actually bad at all if you ask me. When I was around more often, The whole (interior of the) building outside of the main floor may have needed a face lift but was still in pretty safe/sound shape, but I guess now the roof needs a replacement, maybe $10K-$20K job. The rest of the exterior is fine. I just wish the new owner would give the place a chance to give him/her good money. It's a good place.

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Old 9th December 2012, 20:54   #4
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I read through the comments and a thought came up...

If the concept of Cedars is so strong, isn't there another location to continue this pub/restaurant?


Judging by this comment, Saada Simon sold it. Cedars signed up just to post that comment, as it's their only comment on the website.
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Originally Posted by cedars(1 comment)posted 1 day, 5 hours ago


whoa whoa- the simons did not buy the coconut grove, nor would we ever. and mara simon did not sell the building, saada simon did. the building and the business are two different things. mara never received one dollar from this sell, it happened behind her and cedars back.

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Old 9th December 2012, 21:38   #5
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According to a lot of people I have talked to, the plan has been to move it, but this plan hasn't been confirmed. I honestly hope she does move it, so at least there still is a place for local artists and musicians to share what they do. It's probably been a full year since I've talked to Mara who runs it; I should just pick up the phone and call her, but I'm not sure if she'll like talking about it.

Knowing the people there, I foresee a bunch of "benefit" gigs in the near future to work on this. They've done this before when a nearby indoor skate park got flooded out and needed to be gutted and rebuilt inside.

This source shows the business making between a half and a full million in revenue per year. This one says only $420K, but this only counts the bar, since the restaurant has been under separate accounting since Tommy left in '08. Knowing them, it would not surprise me if they reported 420 as a joke, since although I don't support this, Cedars has sometimes been a place to smoke marijuana behind the back door where we loaded and unloaded. It also says 11-50 employees, which sounds right. I would hope this income and group of employees is plenty motivation to keep it going somewhere. The revenue is extremely likely higher but only partially reported. Almost all transactions there are cash. Nobody ever cut me a check for any of the countless gigs I played. It was always cash under the table.

[...which I had to report separately because otherwise I would be audited, since it helped make me able to pay up front for my undergrad/bachelors degree classes. Paying for college with limited income sets off red flags for the tax guys. I reported most of that kind of income as "freelance musician" (in addition to other jobs held at the time).]


If Cedars moves, it will never be the same. It'll take a lot of adjustment for everyone, but I'd still give it a try. The original location puts it perfectly between downtown and the Youngstown State University Campus, and that will be hard to match.

edit - I should add, thank you both for showing interest. This place is a major part of my life, and it's a tough situation to take in. I hope that Mara does something that works out to keep things going. She owes it to her dad, who in my opinion virtually single-handedly created the best reason to visit Youngstown.

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Old 10th December 2012, 05:02   #6
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If it's a viable bar, it should be able to afford a move. If it wasn't a viable bar, then it won't reopen.
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Old 10th December 2012, 19:19   #7
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Of course the location is important, but a business is as good as the people working there.
People are usually willing to travel to a place if it's worth visiting and having a good staff is worth roughly 80% of your reputation.

I support good music. Even if I'll never be able to visit the place, I'd hate it if it were replaced by a business that would just play radio music.

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Old 11th December 2012, 01:34   #8
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See, even a band that really sucks occasionally sneaks into one of their lineups there, and the show is still somehow awesome, just because of where you are, who else is there, the fact that it's live, the fact that the performers are pouring themselves out onto the crowd, and the fact that you can still enjoy coming up with really odd and creative ways of saying the band sucks.

The ability to walk (or stagger as the case may be) to and from the University campus is important, and being near but slightly off the downtown "strip" of other businesses and clubs really helped. It was one of those things where you could tell someone, "hey, I know this place a little off the strip", and suddenly you've just introduced someone to a really amazing place that they'll never forget and never stop visiting.

There's something about local live music that even trumps the major concerts I've attended. Sometimes a weekend band will come up with some pretty unique shit. They'll find out a dude ran out of beer money so they auction off their old guitar strings to re-lace the highest bidder's shoes to raise the necessary money to keep the guy going. Then you get a guy that wears guitar string shoelaces that has a great story to tell. Other times they trade a t-shirt and a CD for a bra from one of the female fans, and fill tone hole in the clear bass drum head with the collected bras. Still other times a band will do a huge transformation of a song when covering it in a totally different but awe-inspiring cover. As a fan you can shout really off-the-wall comments/outbursts that generally get some pretty good reactions from everyone else in there. It's hard to explain. It's just a damn good time.

There's absolutely no way a "high-end burger" joint will come anywhere near what this place is. What a fucking disgrace.

I'll travel to wherever the place goes, yes, and so will those that also look back on decades of the legacy, but it's also important that it finds a place where it's equally discoverable and unique to the young that keep things new and ongoing there. I really wish it luck.

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Old 14th December 2012, 23:15   #9
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From a strictly business standpoint, I'd go with the high end burger joint. You know how I say government is unfriendly to business. Bars are a special case since the MADD ladies.

Bars are a shadow of themselves. The lid is on so tight around here... you'd be Grand Opening... Grand Closing in two weeks..
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Old 17th December 2012, 02:21   #10
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http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/dec/16/so-long-cedars/

more info on the situation on the link above

Vindy.com is the website for the city's newspaper The Vindicator.

It's true that bars are often the businesses that get attacked the most when it comes to measures that make it hard to stay in business. But at Cedars, most patrons didn't actually get real drunk, and if they did, they got kicked out by a really big bouncer dude. Pretty much all the patrons were there for shows, for conversation, for art, for food, for a cocktail, or two, but not a lot. They still have $1 Straub beers though, if you were hard up for cash - it's a bare-bones beer: barley, hops, yeast, water (nothing else) beer that is simple and good. I don't know of any time a police officer has had to come into the bar, and aside of taking care of a temporary drug problem behind the building, I'm not even really aware of Cedars being the cause of any real problems outside of the bar.

It really sounds like the gal that runs the place is going to find a way to relocate at least. I doubt old purists would agree to this, but maybe she'll even find somewhere better. It'll be hard though - she never had to pay rent - just utilities, since grandma had it. Moving will incur either a mortgage or rent. That'll change things.

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Old 18th December 2012, 16:06   #11
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Try to make a profit selling 2 beers and kicking people out. It's the law of the land. It's also business suicide.
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Old 19th December 2012, 00:07   #12
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The business isn't hurting at all, and no one here is claiming it is. They're getting kicked out despite being quite successful.

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Old 19th December 2012, 11:58   #13
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Ted. I know all the bar owners for 5 miles. They aren't whistling "Zip it de doo hah". One of my best friends Mike just killed a bar last year. The question is "How do I get out with my shorts?".
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Old 20th December 2012, 01:31   #14
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A lot of bars fail because they don't have non-alcohol reasons to be a patron or they don't have any income that isn't alcohol sales. This place has plenty of both. From a business standpoint, it's not the most profitable out there, but it's far more profitable than necessary to sustain itself. Many of the Sunday music festivals there have been "all-ages" where alcohol sales were restricted to after 10 p.m. and they still had the register constantly running.

As far as singing zip, you'd still be right for this bar though, not because of revenue, but because of the stress level involved with any successful restaurant and/or bar business. Lots of long hours and a lot of "hurry up and wait". You're doing tedious prepping while things are slow, which is boring, then suddenly the joint is packed far beyond capacity and you're trying to keep your head above water. Still, it's amazing how well they keep things moving while keeping the mood and energy people come to experience - I can't remember a time when someone seemed to become impatient there unless they were joking.

If you're just running a 'bar', the odds are indeed stacked against you. There's a lot of truth to what you said in a long lost thread about a bar being a place to meet up with people you wouldn't want in your living room. This place isn't really like that though. It's a nice tablecloth restaurant in half the floor and a live music club in the other half, with the kitchen and man-made jungle of sorts in-between. Most customers in the club don't even sit down at all while there unless they're eating - it's a big floor for hundreds of people with only maybe a dozen stools at the bar. More of a concert venue than an alcohol server, even though they do sell a lot of alcohol, but I'd be willing to bet they keep as much of the door money as they sell alcohol, while still having plenty to pay the performers.

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Old 20th December 2012, 23:11   #15
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It seems like they've come down on this place like a lead brick. One beer on my breath stopped the liquor store from selling me a bottle last month. If you wanted 3 drinks, you probably should have stayed home.

We get about 500 DUI's in a month here. Paying for that 400 million dollar jail/social services/ whatever they put in. I think they called it a "civic center". Maybe Ohio isn't that red. But I think most people around here have given up on bars as something to do.

So... you get old drunks... and kids that don't know any better....
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