Back in June, the St. Petersburg music community was crushed to discover that one of its most beloved venues, The Amsterdam, was shuttering, closing down for good. There was no way to calculate the number of bands — local, regional and national — who played there, nor any way to calculate the massive goodwill Jon Cullen and Zoie Torres brought to the community.
And now it is happening again, this time in Winter Park. The nicest family we could ever want — because Rosemarie and Pops adopted us all — is closing down The Red Lion Pub after 27 years in the business.
If you have time, read dozens upon dozens of touching testimonials on Facebook. I doubt there is any other club in Florida so lovingly revered.
I cannot do justice to this, but Rosemarie Ryan and her son, Christian Ryan, have allowed me to share their stories with you. I can only hope that, if you recognize yourself or those you know, you might take heed.Pay attention to William Bell’s admonition: “You don’t miss your water ’til the well runs dry.”
Where to begin…
We are one month away from my 27th year here. Yes, we will be celebrating; Christian is setting that up now, and we’ll inform you as soon as the event is up. Keep September 17th open, though; it’s a Saturday. That Saturday is the actual date and a great day for a party; sadly it will be our last though. Before you get upset, please understand where we are coming from.
First of all, 27 years is a very long time to stay in one place. Longer than many of you have been here. Pops and I are looking at a whole lot less ahead on our timeline than what we have behind us. 12- and 18-hour days are wearing on us. How many people do you know at our age that can still pull those doubles? Pops is 65, and I’m not that far behind him; we’d like to start enjoying our lives more and worrying less. Not that these years haven’t been enjoyable and full of so many wonderful memories. But it’s time, and time is changing. I’ve seen so many changes over the years, mostly good; lately it has been exceptionally hard. I’ve always been proud of the fact that you were all safe here, your stuff was safe here. Problem personalities were sent on their way, no bar fights. But the neighborhood, the world is changing, and I worry I won’t be able to keep you safe as this continues.
The world has become so angry. We are also dealing with more and more disrespect, not just towards us, but our place and people as well. Our bartenders are working harder and longer for less, left with a mess and a bad taste instead of a tip. Everyone wants, few give, there’s no balance of energies anymore. And none of us are making enough to survive. Rent, electric, even beer has all gone up, and Tuesday can no longer support an entire week. And that has even dropped drastically. The 7-11 is doing quite well though. Why buy your drinks there while enjoying our party, music, AC, toilet paper… all being waited on and cleaned up after? You probably don’t even realize that Pops (a 65-year-old man) sweeps the parking lot (not even our property) every day (yes, every day) because people can’t even use the ashtrays/trashcans we provide, and we wish to be good neighbors. It’s not just us; it’s the whole center. As if no one cares. Whatever happened to “leave no trace”? Not to chastise, just something to think about as you move on and find someplace that takes care of you.
We opened the Den 16 months ago hoping to bring new excitement. It seems that more and more, people don’t want to just visit and be with friends. There needs to be an event. We have done our best to bring you excellent music while also helping out local and touring bands. Just last night, someone mentioned how lucky it was that bands had this place to fall back on. Last-minute cancellations, fundraisers, a need for rehearsal space. We have always tried to accommodate and have been blessed with some amazing acts. But we’re also seeing a lack of support for each other here as well. Friends will go out to see their friends or that one band from a festival. Please do yourselves a huge favor: get out there and experience as much of the talent as you can. Try something/learn something new, the talent here is incredible in all forms of art. Support each other, no one was meant to go it alone, be a community. Expand your community and take care of each other.
We use to take care of each other. We had a fundraiser a few months back for “everyone’s” favorite bartender; she’s been with us for many years. Other than the bands that gave their time (most not even knowing her), only a handful showed up. Some left because even though they love her to pieces, they should not have to donate to eat or participate because they are regular patrons. We spent more than we made and still made sure everything that came in went to the fundraiser. That’s happening more and more as so many need the community fund, but fewer contribute. Even our Tuesday vendors, for the most part, don’t contribute anymore. (Much love to those who still do.)
This really was not meant to be a rant, I apologize for that. There are many good people here; we just have no more left to give. It’s just become hard, heartbreaking and tiring just to keep up.
That being said we hope that you will join us somewhere along the end of this journey and hopefully on September 17th. We will stay open for the following two weeks in hopes of selling down inventory and not leaving any more in debt than we already are. There’s a lot to clean up and out as well. Maybe some of you that have left the area will be able to visit one last time. There are beautiful memories and so much love through the years, it will be incredibly hard to say good-bye. The majority of my life has been here, it’s all I know, and so many will be missed. Perhaps we’ll have time to catch you elsewhere now.
With hugs and much love,
Mom, Pops and your Red Lion crew.
Christian offered this:
This has been difficult to hold in, but here it goes. Red Lion Pub will be closing its doors permanently next month. For 27 years, longer than my own existence, it has been in my family. I grew up here as a little kid playing TouchGames while my mom worked behind the counter, servicing food and being a staple neighborhood bar; long before it was what it is now. To have witnessed the evolution has been something.
Since the beginning of 2015, I took a more involved role of booking and coordinating events here as the pub expanded with the music room, aka the Lion’s Den. It has not been easy and by no means perfect, but much has happened I never would have thought possible going back to my days as a kid. Having musical heroes, even some legends, in addition to so many people from around country/world play at my parents’ bar? Never would have I envisioned any of that! I have grown a lot and learned a tremendous amount through all of this on not only a business level, but a personal one. Most do not understand what goes into every event: the planning, risk, hope, failure, success, etc. All with often times trying to make miracles happen with limited resources that were available. The time and effort that I put into this was solely for my family, to those who supported us, and the culture of the city.
I have gained so much respect for those pursing the same ideas in Orlando and beyond, while at the same token frowned upon those with the means who are afraid to take the risks. I feel confident in saying during this stretch, I helped bring new music and art that otherwise did not have a place in Orlando. Not only as a booker but a musician, I’m approached by so many on a constant basis looking for shows/event/etc. to be a part of. Big and small. One thing I really wanted was to be a beacon for that cause, as several places have closed shop since I began in the music scene in 2010. I am sad that we are now down another one.
I wanted to tag the people who helped make some great memories here (sorry if I missed you), not just the past 16 months with the Lion’s Den expansion, but the six years where I truly started becoming more involved in sharing my music at the pub. Many of my bands grew up here, literally.
Saturday, September 17th will be our final show here commemorating the 27th anniversary of my mom’s ownership.
That being said, there are a few shows still on the calendar before then, as well as open opportunities for any locals looking for a chance to play one more time if interested.
Holey Miss Moley + Row Jomah at Red Lion Pub – 8/18/16
Benefit for Keegan & Christian’s Stolen Equipment feat. Shak Nasti, Brown Note, Leisure Chief, Con Leche & More! at Red Lion Pub – 8/25
Raspberry Pie LP Release Show at Red Lion Pub – 9/10
Twisted Tuesday with Codey Bearden’s Tiny Kitchen (ATL, GA) CD Release Party – 8/23
Twisted Tuesday with Timothy Eerie – 8/30
Twisted Tuesday with Meiuuswe – 9/6
Twisted Tuesday with Aaron Lebos Reality (Miami, FL) – 9/13
Thanks for all who have been a part of this crazy ride!
Rosemarie added this heartfelt message this morning:
I don’t even know what to say, I’m speechless. I spent the entire day yesterday answering calls and messages, trying to get some of this together. I honestly was afraid to look here, I knew that the notifications were piling up, I just couldn’t keep going over and over the same story. And I cried until my eyes were swollen shut, didn’t sleep last night either. Finally I got brave enough to look and hoping there are “no fights” or nasty remarks. Wow, just wow! I am overwhelmed with the love and the memories. I told Pops that I kind of feel like I’m at my own funeral and it’s one heck of an eulogy! Thank you for all of your kind words, understanding and love. Thank you for being there for each other. I guess the only thing more I can ask for is to see you again soon. Perhaps tonight as some hugs would be nice about now.
And Christian added this:
Well, in light of all the recent happenings lately music still prevails! Thanks to all the folks who came out to Will’s for Damez and The Giant Peach Hip Hop showcase with Leisure Chief. It was much needed in my book.
It has been touching to read all the personal stories shared about Red Lion Pub from yesterday’s news. I’ve said it a lot this week, but the support shown of late really puts into perspective why I do what I do in playing music. Thank you!
MusicFestNews offers our deepest respect and love to Rosemarie, Pops and Christian for all you have done to support the music scene in Orlando and Florida. We will miss you, Red Lion Pub!
Photographs by kind permission of AJ Hége Photography.