R.I.P., Ronny’s: Another Chicago punk club falls victim to Daley’s storm troopers

November 7, 2010

This news is a few weeks old now, coinciding with my brief blogging sabbatical, but seeing as how I’d paid loving homage to the place just last June in this space, it doesn’t seem right to let the passing of the lovably crappy Logan Square punk club Ronny’s go unremarked.

The full, sad story of how Chicago police and city inspectors descended on the dive bar and under-the-radar punk venue on Oct. 22nd was charted complete with pictures on the fine blog written by Annie Reese of the local band rock falls, whose gig that evening was one of several nixed by a raid that shut down live music at the joint for lack of a municipal Public Place of Amusement (PPA) license.

Indie punk promoters MP Shows had been booking the endearing dive, and that company’s founder, Brian Peterson, has lived through this sort of thing before with the late, lamented original incarnation of the Fireside Bowl. “We were under the impression that any performing arts space under 99 capacity and which only took donations [at the door] was not subject to a PPA,” Peterson said.

The city taught him otherwise. Ronny’s still is open as a neighborhood watering hole, but it isn’t doing shows anymore. And MP has no intentions of returning to the venue.

As I said, I’ll miss the place—horrifying toilets, stench of cat pee, and all; I had more fun there, as a musician and as a listener, than any similar punk venue since the Fireside. But not everyone felt that way; Brian Costello in the Reader pretty much danced on Ronny’s grave.

Arguing about the merits of the club now is moot. But what is concerning is what its demise says about the big picture in Chicago club land.

The loss of Ronny’s came fairly close on the heels of the closing of another indie/underground venue, the AV-aerie. And sources say that two other “punk-rock bars” that sometimes present live music (though that is not primarily “their thing”) were raided on the same night as Ronny’s.

I also have heard of three other “let’s call them underground” venues that have been getting hassled by the city over the last six months. But the saddest thing about this is that the push for these dreaded licensing inspections seems not to be coming first and foremost from the city--for once--but from a competing club seeking to stamp out its “er, let’s call them less than thoroughly well-ordered” competitors.

If that’s true, that venue deserves nothing less than a full-on music-scene boycott. Stay tuned.