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Published: Tuesday, 1/16/2001

Bar turmoil jeopardizes music scene

Oh, Rob ... Sigh. Rob, Rob, Rob.

(Gee, I feel like Laura Petrie.)

The last time I wrote about you, it was to rush to your defense. You, Rob Croak - hands-down this city's shrewdest, most plugged-in music promoter.

It was spring when your name last passed through my keyboard, as pressure mounted from a city council weary of complaints from folks living behind the clubs on East Toledo's Main Street.

I likened your council hearing to an unruly teen making one last appeal to exasperated parents and hoped the old fogeys would give you another chance.

Without you, what would there be but clubs blasting Bob Seger oldies or Madonna dance tracks? No, cities need decent live music, and not just another offering from the Mostly Mozart series. Not that we should cut back on classical music. Is life worth living without it? Nah.

But that's not the only kind of music scene any self-respecting city should have, and of all the metro-area club owners, you seemed to understand that best. Thanks to you, Toledoans were lucky enough to hear bands like Nirvana, Goo Goo Dolls, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sugar Ray, long before MTV found them.

But, Rob, you don't look so far off into the horizon that you fail to see what's right before your eyes. You showcased local bands, and giving hometowners a venue to play is another much-needed blow against mediocre, DJ-driven clubs.

No doubt: You deserve a great deal of whatever credit is due anyone for building whatever there is of Toledo's live music scene.

But, Rob, the 'rents are really exasperated now. The proverbial straw on the camel's back had to be when that guy was stabbed last month outside of Frankie's bar.

Plus, now a lot of out-of-town aunts and uncles - you know, the state liquor-control folks - are cranked off at you, too. More citations. Your arrest, even! You are, of course, pretty cranked off yourself.

“This whole story is being sensationalized,” you said. “We're dealing with a lot of past information and past problems, [although] everyone knows the [security] improvements have been made and are continuing to be made. We feel it's being sensationalized just because it's become more of a personal attack on me, rather than the issues dealing with the nightclubs on Main Street.”

Council president Peter Ujvagi, meanwhile, stands in awe of this verbal deftness: “Every time you meet with him, any issue you bring up, he can rationalize it as someone else's responsibility. I've never seen anybody with the kind of skill he has with this. Better'n anybody I've ever seen.”

District council rep Bob McCloskey - your last hope on council - has washed his hands of you.

“I bent over a lot further than I ever should have, trying to preserve something I thought could be good for the city, a place for young people to go. ... I set up a meeting with him and a bunch of business people, trying to get him to understand what it takes to run a good operation without liquor violations, and it was like talking to a wall.”

Well, it's up to the state liquor commission now. Here's how it looks to Mr. McCloskey: “Rob Croak is a good [music] promoter. The problem is, he's really not a responsible bar owner.”

Is he right, Rob?

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at roberta@theblade.com or call 1-419-724-6086.



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