Little Brother’s in Columbus To Close This Summer

This is the worst news a dude living in Columbus OH who likes indepedent music can get. Here’s an e-mail from Dan Dougan, owner of Little Brother’s..

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To friends, family, fans, musicians and community,

There are rumors flying that Little Brother’s is being “taken over” or replaced by new ownership, so I thought it was important to clarify our current situation.

Just as we are hitting Little Brother’s ten-year anniversary in the Short North this May, I have apparently reached an impasse with the landlord of the building, who has informed me, through his lawyers, that the only new lease he will offer me includes, among other stipulations, an immediate increase in rent of over 40 percent, and annual increases. It has been clearly implied that someone else has offered this amount for the space and that I could be asked to vacate the premises before summer begins.

This came as a surprise, because I had negotiated terms face-to-face with my landlord earlier this year and we verbally agreed upon incremental increases over the next five years that would have been difficult, but not impossible, for us to accommodate over that time. He promised to send the new terms of the lease in writing. Soon after, he stopped responding to my calls and recently began communicating with me only via his attorney.

While business has been good this year, this increase is more than I can afford. The entertainment business goes through so many highs and lows, an agreement of this nature could crush us the next time we hit a slow period. Clearly, if I am asked to leave by summertime, that gives me little time to relocate the club, which is not something I am sure I can endure again anyway.

Ten years ago, when Stache’s building was torn down, I was invited by the previous management company of 1100 N. High St. to move into the neighborhood between campus and the Short North, which, at the time, was a much more barren place. They wanted an anchor business to attract more people and businesses to the area, and gave me reasonable rent so that I could develop that business.

Still, moving cost more than I could have imagined – there was a battle when I had to have the building rezoned, and that, combined with designing and building the stage, the bathrooms, the bar, the cooler, the sound stage, was extremely costly. In the first two or three years, we struggled month to month and I was often uncertain that we would survive.

Just as we finally stabilized, the current landlord came along and bought the building, offering far more for it than I could afford. Negotiating with him proved challenging. We have endured one difficult rent increase after another, while responsibly maintaining the inside of the building. We have had some good years and bad ones, but ultimately persevered through many tight times. The added financial burden made it difficult for me to make the business the one I had imagined.

Over time, it became clear that this man did not understand the nature of our business, or the important role it has played in bringing a diverse range of music to Columbus and supporting the local music scene. Often, I was told, that a restaurant, or the building re-carved into some kind of mini-mall would make better tenants, in spite of the fact that he has had a difficult time keeping any retail tenants in the storefronts to our north, outside of the Plasma Center. We may have struggled, but overall, we have been good, reliable tenants.

I can’t claim responsibility for the way the neighborhood has transformed into the little bohemia it has become over the past decade, but I do think that our presence contributed, and made it a much more attractive option for several of the businesses that relocated from South Campus, as well as new ones.

Last year, I was approached by a couple of young men from out of state who wanted to buy my business and continue the legacy of Stache and Little Brother’s. After nearly 20 years of this up and down business, I was ready to pass the torch, remain as an advisor to the business and try something new. We reached preliminary terms, but it came to a halt when they were unable to come to any agreement with the landlord.

So that brings us to today. The landlord has refused to sit down face-to-face and work out a compromise. Because his terms are unacceptable, I believe that it is just a matter of time before Little Brother’s is asked to leave the premises.
I have a liquor license, some gear, the good name of one of the last remaining long-standing, independent live music nightclubs in the country and some expertise I can hopefully sell. But at this time, the cost of moving and starting over is just too much. The lifestyle of a music promoter is like professional gambling. When I was younger and still “at the party,” it was all well and good. But my wife, and our son, who is turning two in May, deserve a more stable lifestyle. I also have health issues that the added stress will not help.

For our tenth anniversary and perhaps Dan’s retirement, we’re asking for your stories about Little Brother’s (and Stache’s, for you old-timers). Write up something about your memories, your favorite show, what the clubs have meant to you, or whatever strikes you and send it to lbstories@gmail.com

If this is the end, I need to thank my immediate staff, some of whom have been with me for many, many years, for their efforts and support. There will be time for the numerous personal thank yous that I need to say later. For now, let me begin to express my gratitude to all of the players, payers, workers and wonks who have kept me in this game for almost 20 years – not much time to a mountain, but nearly half of my life.

Take care of your little brothers and sisters.
Your pal,
Dan Dougan

Discussion in the message board.

  • http://www.thabombshelter.com Harry Smith

    That sucks so hard. I’ll have to see how many shows I can make it to in the next few months. I can only imagine how much MORE barren the live music landscape here in columbus will become with this departure. There are already about a thousand shows that skip Columbus in favore of The Grog Shop/Beachland/Southgate House, I don’t want to think of it getting WORSE!

  • ramirez

    boooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  • http://www.donewaiting.com/houston DAC

    Sad to hear. I’ve seen it happen a lot here in Houston.

  • caleb

    Jesus, now that’s bad news.

    I know it’s an old story, where a business comes into a sketchy area, plays a huge role in turning that area around, and then gets priced out of the area–essentially being punished for doing its job.

    But still, take Little Brother’s out of the equation, and the city of Columbus gets about 30% less cool a place to live.

    When I first moved here, I was really excited about what a great place Columbus is, but with a lot of changes over the last few years, I’m less and less convinced.

  • larrymusic

    As I said in the rumor thread, I am not a big fan of the actual venue, but am a big fan of Dan and the wonderful music he has brought into town night after night.

    I hope that he can at least take some part in bringing music to us in the future, but if not, his tour of duty was longer than most independents. Dan, I salute you Brother. Thank you!

  • http://www.laboratoryrats.com KW

    Probably making room for some ironically hip clothing store chain location/internet juice bar. Got to see Kings of Convenience at LB, thanks for the memory.

  • tobias

    noooooooooooooooooo

  • Peggy Barry

    Dan, you know I am familiar with this same goddam fucking story. I too had my 20 years, doing what I loved, but was forced aside by the Big’uns. I will love you always, not only for Staches, which in retrospect seemed a great toss of the dice, but the aplomb that you had in moving it, and keeping it. I too have moved a business, and not to the success that you did. Atlantis and Puttin’ On The Dog will always be dear to me, but I do think I held on too long. They DO, indeed, want a mall, and they are just bigger than us. I love you well, and you already know that.

    Your ever-lovin’ buddy,
    Peggy Barry

  • JCRO

    FUCT. Argh, such bad news, I want this landlord’s name and address so I can make his life miserable. What a douche. With out Lil bros in that strip of High St. things start to really suck; I love Surly Girl but they can’t go it alone. All too often it is preshow food at Surly then good music and drinks at Lil’ Bros. Lil Bros IS the destination in that strip and then everything else around there survives. I’m sorry but Dougan books the best stuff bar none. Skully’s has sucked for years (sorry Skully, yer a dick and your booking is sub par)and you pretty much have a few restaurants that are take it or leave it w/ the food. What a shame for our city’s culture… How will we get a venue like Dan’s back in our town?

    Please Dan, don’t give up, we need you. Tell us how to help.

  • http://www.lostweekendrecords.com Missing Staches

    It looks like the end of an era for Staches/Little Brothers.

    I have heard abouth this for a while but had been keeping quiet becasue I did not want it to be true, but alas it looks that it is true.

    After ten years of Little Brothers and years before as Staches, a long running and for me a huge part of my musical upbringing is coming to and end.

    from the mid/late 80’s until ’97 Staches was a second home to me. I saw so many shows there I could never remember them all, from National acts like, Nirvanna, Screaming Trees, Superchunk, The Flaming Lips, fIREHOSE, Soul Asylum, Billy Goat, Circle Jerks, Robyn Hitchcock, Uncle Tupalo, and so on to THE palce to see local bands, Pica Huss, MT005, Girly Machine, New Bomb Turks, Gaunt, Mary Adam 12, G Spot Tornados, Hairy Patt Band, and a list of thousands. I bet I was in Staches on an aveage of 4 to 5 nights a week from 90 to 97.

    I was fortunate that my first band Truman Carter got to play there a few times before 1997 when Dan moved to the Short North and opened Little Brothers. When Little Brothers opened I had just started a new band Bubba Ho-Tep and we played there a lot durring our lifespan, 1997-99) even got to open for Jim Carroll and Mike Watt as well as lots of local bills with Them Wranch and Swivel Arm Battle Grip.

    After the fall of Bubba Ho-Tep my next band The Broken Circle Gosple Deluxe played many shows at Little Brothers, healine shows and opening for Mojo Nixon, Hot Club Of Cowtown and Asylum Street Spankers. I was hopening my current band Second Sate Butchers would play there, it looks like we will proably not.

    For me Little Brothers was never the same as Staches but I did grow to accept the new club and like it now it looks like an era saddly is ending.

  • http://www.tankboyprime.blogspot.com tankboy

    bum-MER! I really like that room and the vibe it gave off!

  • That Damn Dean

    This really sucks. I honestly think the short north is going down a funky path. Everything is trying to be trendy down there. sigh….I had many a good time there though. I’ll miss ya.

  • Poop House

    I always felt (in a very small way) tied to the history of Staches/Little Brothers. You see, my family used to own Staches way back before it was a rock club. And before it was called Staches for that matter. It was just a great neighborhood watering hole called The Tree Lounge. My grandparents ran it, my mom was a waitress, my dad a bartender. Now, of course, this was a few years before I popped into the world, but there it is. It’s in my blood.

    Cut to 20 years later, and this place is affecting me on a whole different level. I’m in college at OSU in the early 90’s, and Staches ‘the rock club’ is going like gangbusters. I spent many a sweaty night packed shoulder to shoulder watching the likes of: The Lemonheads and Soul Asylum. I was even lucky enough to play there with my band at the time, Gumshoe (I swear, those stage lights were literally inches away from your face!). It was my definition of a live music bar.

    Then, from the ashes of Staches arose Little Brothers. And that began another chapter in my appreciation of and affiliation with the Columbus music scene. I’ve hit that stage many times. First with a band I was in called Girl Drink Drunk (one particular show, much to my delight, is still immortalized on a calendar hanging in the dressing room.). Then a dozen or so other times with Poop House Reilly. Little Brothers was the site of our first cd release and first official gig.

    I’m happy to say that the last gig I played there with the full band was a great one. It was last year. We were playing for the Ohio Roller Girls musical chairs benefit. The place was jumping. It was a great set. There was something really emotionally moving about being on that stage, twangin’ as hard as we could, and looking down on a mob of girls on skates beating the crap out of each other. It still makes me tear up a little. And get excited in the pants.

    And then, of course, there’s all the bands I’ve seen there. Some of the most amazing shows I’ve ever laid eyes and ears on. Local or national, Little Brothers during it’s run, has been host to just about any band that I’d care to see. Here are some off the top of my head:
    The Derailers
    Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys
    The Randys
    Los Straightjackets
    Jets To Brazil
    The Black Keys
    The Posies
    Silversun Pickups and Viva Voce
    Pete Yorn
    The Cloud Room
    The Broken West/Ferraby Lionheart/The Walkmen
    Todd Snider
    Mojo Nixon
    BR5-49
    The Electric Six
    Heartless Bastards
    Hellbound Truckers
    The Bigger Lovers
    Miranda Sound
    Over The Rhine and David Mead
    HEM
    The Pernice Brothers
    Scott Miller and the Commonwealth
    Cat Power
    Southern Culture on the Skids

    That Black Keys show I saw at Little Bros, has gotta be in my top five shows of all time. It was right before they graduated to the bigger clubs (Newport, Promowest). The place was packed. Those two Keys boys rocked as hard as a fucking army. I remember looking around at all the faces in the crowd. There where people there of all ages and all walks of life. And everybody, EVERYBODY was into it. And as I stood there sweating, crammed shoulder to shoulder, I smiled remembering those days back at Staches and how cool it felt that I could still experience something like this fifteen years later.

    So, thanks for the music Mr. Dougan.

    Staches/Little Brothers has shaped my life’s soundtrack.

    Yer 3rd cousin twice-removed,

    Ian “Poop House” Hummel

    ?

  • lisa

    this made me cry.

    • Mark

      Made me poop.