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.

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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.
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