Crocodile Cafe abruptly closes its doors
The Crocodile Cafe, an iconic Seattle rock club where many local up-and-comers played before launching into the national spotlight, has...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Crocodile Cafe, an iconic Seattle rock club where many local up-and-comers played before launching into the national spotlight, has closed its doors, the club's booking agent Eli Anderson said today.
The Belltown venue, at Second Avenue and Blanchard Street, shut down abruptly after more than 15 years.
Anderson said he received a voice mail from owner Stephanie Dorgan on Sunday.
"She said, 'I have to close the Crocodile immediately,' " Anderson said early this afternoon.
He was told that the locks were changed, and that he could pick up his personal items at a specific time this afternoon.
"Everybody that got fired yesterday got together and had drinks," Anderson said. One of his former co-workers heard the club could reopen under new ownership. "But from what I was told, it sounded permanent."
The doors at the club were locked today, and the chairs were up on the tables and countertops.
Calls to Dorgan at the club were not returned.
Chris Hamer, who runs the Singles Going Steady record shop across the street, said he got an e-mail from Anderson telling him the club was closing.
A local DJ who was also in the shop Monday, T.J. Gorton, said he knows a number of Crocodile bartenders and that they got a call Sunday morning telling them not to come to work. "They partied all last night," Gorton said.
He called it "an ugly situation that just came to a halt."The news came as a shock to many in Seattle's rock music circle.
"I think it's a blow to the scene," said David Meinert, a local promoter and publicist. "Part of the side effect of the mayor's downtown development plan, which seems to have no room for live music in it. The Croc is an institution. At the same time, things change, and keeping a venue open as long as the Croc has been, through all the changes the music scene has been through, is a very difficult job. I feel for any club owner trying to make it in Seattle."
Local musician Chris Martin, a guitarist in local rock band Kinski, called the Crocodile Café "the most exciting club to play in town."
"There was something about walking out on that stage that we always found really exhilarating," he said. His band had its record release shows at the club, he said, adding the sound in the room was "always top notch."
"If it closes for good, the music scene in Seattle will never be quite the same," he said.
John Richards, a DJ for KEXP who met his wife at the club, said he was devastated by the news.
"It's one of the landmarks of music in this city ... that place is Seattle music," Richards said.
Rumors that the Crocodile was up for sale have been making the rounds in recent months, and heated up in early December, when booking person Pete Greenberg quit the club. But recently Anderson, the remaining booking person at the club, told the Times: "The Crocodile is not closing. The Crocodile is not for sale. All rumors. Hearsay."
He said the club's restaurant had closed for renovations and "to figure out how to make it profitable."
The Crocodile Cafe was opened in 1991 by attorney-turned-businesswoman Dorgan and quickly became a local music-scene fixture.
It opened in the spring, just in time to ride the grunge wave. But it had a hearty life after the demise of grunge, and the Crocodile helped launch the likes of Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie.
Nirvana, Sunny Day Real Estate, Band of Horses and just about every other Seattle band that has gone on to national prominence played the Crocodile. It was also a prime venue for touring acts, landing the likes of the Strokes, Sparklehorse, Badly Drawn Boy and Cheap Trick.
The club's last show was Saturday, with solo efforts from David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) and Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes). The next scheduled show was Tuesday (Old Man Winter), and the Crocodile's calendar shows bookings through April.
Years ago, Dorgan had a falling out with her original two partners.
According to a Seattle Times story earlier this year, partners Jerold Everard and Erickson Shirley sued her in August 1992, accusing her of failing to maintain proper accounting records.
In September 1992, Dorgan's attorney informed the court that a settlement had been reached. He then obtained an order to seal the case documents, arguing in court papers that Dorgan and her then-husband were attorneys and that the allegations "present risks of substantial negative effects to their personal and professional reputations."
The case was later unsealed at the request of The Seattle Times
Dorgan later married Peter Buck, the R.E.M. guitarist, who became a partner in the Crocodile, and often played there with his other band, the Minus 5. Dorgan and Buck divorced last year.
Seattle Times staff reporters Christina Siderius and Marian Liu contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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