The Croatian Tavern owner Joe Lasic had been serving the near East Side of Downtown for 53 years before Gerard Guhde offered to buy him out in October. By February, Guhde, who previously hosted pop-up events at Porco’s Tiki Lounge, Spotted Owl and Grog Shop, used a shoestring budget and a fresh coat of paint to turn the St. Clair Avenue dive bar into a gloriously grimey music club.
Both the bar side and the stage area feature old-school nods to the former location such as World War II-era phone booths and a grid ceiling that has become a differential — serving as a convenient and non-aggressive source of lighting, with plenty of different color options — of the music hall.
“You could tell there was a time when that room was alive, but it was long, long ago,” says Guhde. “The bones and the history are really important to me here. It’s already got that dive-bar patina you can’t recreate if you want to.” Guhde calls the space a “constant work in progress.”
What’s already seeming to hit stride is a lineup of some of Cleveland’s biggest, most exciting and most diverse bands including Apostle Jones, Smith Taylor and Marcus Alan Ward. Booking everything himself, Guhde is even starting to get on the radar of some national agents who like Crobar’s underground approach.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the community,” says Guhde. “It was about creating a safe haven for those on the fringes, a place where the underground community could thrive without judgment, and a blank canvas for Cleveland creatives and a safe space for the queer and trans community. The community has responded with support." ra.co/clubs/195122