The end of an error?

I’ve closed down a whole lot of businesses.  In fact, if you’re not a major corporation, I suggest that you never consider hiring me, because odds are good that giving me a job is the surest sign that your business will one day (sooner rather than later, probably) fail.

Not just be less profitable than you expected, but cease to exist.

There’s, Tapesouth, Cobb Theaters, D.T.’s bar, the Birmingham Post-Herald.  Those are the ones I remember — I know there are more, but I can’t think of their names.

There’s an obvious joke I’m forgetting to add here…

The worst are the ones that I’m there for, though.  Curious George’s Comics and Arcana was where I spent a large part of my teenage years, into my mid 20s.  George sold me my comics, but he became a friend as I grew older, and eventually hired me on for part-time work to help me control the amount of money I was spending in the store.  We shuttered his door in 1995, and I made sure that I made the final purchase (aside from other dealers in the area coming in to plunder his overstock).  I still have that receipt.

At least we knew that was coming with some advance notice, though. At Bailey’s, as it goes, we never had a chance.

In better days.  "Better" used loosely.

In better days. "Better" used loosely.

That’s sort of unfair; in a way, this has been a telegraphed punch for about 2 years.  Turns out there was a lot of money walking out of the door over the years — we took in a whole lot of cash business, but as I understand it, the only deposits ever made were credit card sales, which (so we thought) were more than enough to cover the costs of staying open.  Turns out, though, we were apparently deeply in debt to various and sundry tax agencies — something only the owners know the full depths of.  Which is fine by me, really, ’cause I don’t want to know depths.  Never liked ’em.

On September 31, with exactly 10 hours of warning, we were informed that our liquor license renewal had slipped slipped through the cracks of the owners’ attention, and that at 12:01 that night we had to shutter the bar pending that renewal.  Unfortunately, since we owed back taxes, the license was under lien, so it was to be a reapplication instead of a renewal — converting our few days of downtime to 6-8 weeks (though we were all assured that there were the ubiquitous Friends in High Places that would ensure that we were open in plenty of time for Halloween).

Since then, we’ve heard that we’d be reopening, that there would be new owners that wanted the status quo to remain the same, and then finally last Tuesday night that the landlord has decided that that space is not going to house a bar ever again.  And so with not a bang that it deserved (on so many levels) but with a practically-unheard whimper, Bailey’s Irish Pub is as lively as the Woolly Mammoth and the World Series hopes of the Chicago Cubs.  Nothing more than a memory, no matter how fondly held.

All the places that have fallen by the wayside are sad losses, to be sure, but Bailey’s is particularly painful to me.  I’ve been in there supporting the place on one side of the bar off and on since they opened in 2001, and supporting the bar on the other with sweat and blood since 2004.  It provided me with more than a reasonable income, including a year-long stint that might have been spent unemployed.  I met a lot of great people there, had some really good times, drank waaaay too much, and played 250+ shows with Eric and the Exhibit(s), among others. Andrew and Julie met there; so did Eric and Brandi (my boss and his wife), and Jason and Jessica, and Daniel and Mariel, and me and Cynthia, and who knows how many others.

I’m not intentionally glossing over the bad shit that happened there.  Ignoring that much negativity is akin to saying that Bush was a good President because he … erm.  Never mind.  But I am choosing to focus on the good, because there’s still a fair amount of bitterness and anger over the way things ended — with no resolution, with an utter lack of communication to those of us that made a lot of money for some people — that I still need time and distance to process.

I’m at another bar now, having slid back down the totem pole once again, and the others I worked with are either elsewhere or making plans to get there.  We Bailey’s folks are a resilient bunch (we sort of have to be, to have made it there for any length of time).  And I hope to finally get out of the business for good within a year or two, if I can stabilize my finances enough.  It’s a young man’s game, and it wears me out. It’ll be nice if I have the chance to go out on my own terms, on my own timetable, instead of having the carpet pulled out from underneath me.

I would request a toast to the memory of Bailey’s, but that’s inappropriate.  What feels more right is taking a cheap can of beer or a toxically low-end whiskey, and pouring a little on the ground, and then vomiting on it a little, and then  starting a fight with yourself and cursing the bartender who obviously didn’t like you that much in the first place. So do that if you have a moment.


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3 thoughts on “The end of an error?

  1. My tribute will be to die slowly from emphysema from my heavy second-hand smoking there. God help the next tenant if it’s not a tobacco shop or smoked ham store.

  2. Ken,
    Remember bumping into you at Dave’s not too long ago and having this conversation. It blows goats that the bar is gone. Loved seeing my friends’ band, Iratowns, play there years back. Bailey’s is what the Stones said about Muscle Shoals Sound, it’s just a great room.

  3. Kenn,
    You are absolutely right. The bar biz is a young man’s game. This is why I have recently left it myself. However, it being a young person’s game is exactly why it is so unsteady. Take a young guy with a lot of drive and ambition and throw lots of profit at him. I daresay that if the particular young man is not an exceptionally steady person, it will get the best of him. Throw in an extracurricular habit(or two) and the chances of long-term survival drop to almost nil. So it goes.

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