Filed Under Music

Grog Shop

Nearing its 25th anniversary (September 22, 2017), the Grog Shop is a fixture of both the Coventry business district and the local independent music scene. The club is also a reminder of Coventry's re-birth in the 1990s. Some twenty years prior to the Grog Shop's opening, Coventry remained a slightly greying, midwestern stepchild of Haight-Ashbury or Greenwich Village. Music stores, headshops and boutiques still attracted shoppers, but the days of scary biker bars and droves of loitering youth had largely passed. By the late 1980s, however, as the vitality of the commercial district fluctuated in response to the demands of both consumers and the surrounding residential community, a changing of the guard took place. Merchants that had long operated in Coventry gave way to new entrepreneurs, even as public memory of the neighborhood as a haven for hippies, punks, and art students continued to mold the district’s identity. This was the environment into which the Grog Shop inserted itself in 1992.

The development of the Grog Shop would reflect and help define the character of the Coventry business district over the next decade. Opened by three co-workers from Club Isabella, a jazz venue in University Circle, the Grog Shop replaced a fledgling bar called the Jazz Saloon—itself a short-lived successor to The Saloon, a rowdy, quasi-biker bar that occupied the space on the south side of Coventry near Mayfield Road in the 1970s and 1980s. Under a one-year management agreement, the Grog Shop began to build a clientele and introduce live music to the bar. The agreement was extended soon after.

The organic transformation of the Grog Shop into an indie music venue can be attributed to the location and timing of the venture. Its inception in the early 1990s coincided with the popularization of indie music styles and the rebirth of the Coventry business district. Bands such as Nirvana and Soundgarden redefined and helped create a larger consumer base for alternative music, while Coventry’s new restaurants and shops energized a neighborhood struggling to subsist on memories of a rebellious heyday. While both the success of the neighborhood and the club were intertwined, the Grog Shop's development can also be attributed to the many successful relationships forged between its management/staff and concert promoters, local and regional artists, patrons, and booking agents. As many of Cleveland's other independent show spaces closed their doors or changed formats by the end of the millennium, the Grog Shop—now located in CoventrYard after being forced out of its previous location in 2002—has secured a place as one of Cleveland’s leading music venues.

Audio

The Grog Shop's Early Years Kathy Blackman, who co-founded the Grog Shop with Matt Mugridge and Sean Heineman, discusses the bar's transition into a music venue. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Grog Shop Fliers While the Grog Shop books nearly all musical genres, the club has also hosted fashion shows, artists, and comedians. Source: Grog Shop
Bar Scene The Grog Shop was originally located at 1765 Coventry Road, near the southeast corner of the Coventry and Mayfield Roads. The bar was previously known as The Saloon in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Pepper-Pot Bar and Lounge in the mid 1960s. Source: Grog Shop
Craw, 2002 The Grog Shop provides a venue for local, regional, and national acts to perform. Pictured above is Craw, a post-rock band from Cleveland, performing at the Grog Shop's original location. Source: Grog Shop
Time Line, c 2002 Shortly after celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Grog Shop unexpectedly lost its lease at 1765 Coventry Road. Aware of the club's role in bringing people to the business district, the City of Cleveland Heights worked closely with the Grog Shop in securing a new site for the venue. Source: Grog Shop
Construction, ca. 2002 Having built strong ties to the Coventry area, Grog Shop founder Kathy Blackman relocated the club to CoventrYard after losing her lease in 2002. The building was previously occupied by the Arabica coffeehouse and Café D'Oro. Source: Grog Shop
Rock Antics The Grog Shop has made its name as one of Cleveland's best independent music venues by consistently attracting celebrated national touring acts of varying genres. Pictured above are Japanese garage rock act Guitar Wolf, and college ska band, the Pietasters. Source: Grog Shop
The B Side Liquor Lounge Not only did CoventrYard offer nearly twice as much space on the ground floor as the Grog Shop’s original location, it also included a lower level. While initial plans were to make use of the area as an extension of the Grog Shop, it was decided to convert the underground space into a separate club featuring electronic music. Source: Grog Shop
Grog Shop Bar Kathy Blackman (right) opened the Grog Shop with Matt Mugridge and Sean Heineman in 1992. The three worked together at Club Isabella in University Circle. Kathy bought out her partners in the mid 1990s. Source: Grog Shop
Fliers and Wall Mural Photographed above (center row) is a scene from a wall mural by Jake Kelly, located on the south wall of the Grog Shop. Flier artists represented include Tyler Fortney, John Greiner, Jon Hicks, Seri Pop and Jake Kelly. Source: Grog Shop

Location

2785 Euclid Heights Blvd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106

Metadata

Richard Raponi, “Grog Shop,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 23, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/442.