When I first heard that a new club from San Jose, California, called The Rockbar Theater was coming to Reno to assume the space of what was once the Knitting Factory Concert House, well, I was very excited. Me and every rocker and band in town. Remembering all the great shows that the Knit had hosted over their seven-year run, I could hardly wait. Rockbar owners Susan Cramer and Robert Farrell couldn’t have picked a better city to move their club to than Reno, I thought.
The buzz that this club was awesome preceded the move. I heard about all the big bands that played there and all the famous rock stars that showed up to play with the bands that were there. It was a dream come true for any concert photographer. Even the club’s motto gave you goose bumps: “Where they treat you like a rockstar.” I just knew this place was going to ROCK.
Opening day finally arrived June 18, 2016. The Rockbar Theater opened their doors in Reno for the very first time with former Guns-N-Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke gracing the stage. It seemed like everybody was there: Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Bizarre Guitar owner Greg Golden and his wife Shanda, along with just about every local band in town each wanting a turn to rock that stage.
Flash forward to January 2017. What started as a wobble in late November seemed like the wheels starting to fall off just seven months in from that first taste of Rockbar. I’m not sure what happened here, but the doors at Rockbar were about to close as fast as they had opened. Employees said they weren’t getting paid, and bar supplies like alcohol were becoming depleted. It was a sad set of affairs.
Rumors were flying that the Rockbar was finished. Meanwhile, the venue dropped in some big names to the booking sheet including Greg Khin Band, Enuff-Z-Nuff, LA Guns and John 5.
When February arrived and the big shows were starting to happen things really started to go south. Rockbar owner Susan Cramer checked into the hospital with heart problems. Greg Khin canceled the week of his scheduled show. Enuff-Z-Nuff canceled soon after that, followed by the others.
People started to blame Khin for all of the sudden canceled shows. Word got back to Khin, who posted on his Facebook page a letter he received from Rockbar co-owner Farrell indicating things were not good with the club and all his attention must be on Susan.
That message seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the Rockbar. Needless to say, all the local bands that were set to open all the canceled shows were furious. Some very mean and nasty posts made their way to Facebook from people blasting the Rockbar owners, even all the way from San Jose.
I got in touch with Cramer to check in on her health and get the facts about Rockbar’s current closure.
“My heart had been having some problems before and it came back. So, I have to step aside from being at the club for awhile,” Cramer said. As to whether the Rockbar is closed for good she replied “No, the Rockbar is not closed. We are just doing some reorganizing right now and will be back open very soon.
I told her that one’s health is far more important than running a nightclub and she needs to take care of her heart first. She agreed.
There you have it. The Rockbar is not closed for good, all I can say is we’ll have to wait and see …. To be continued. Until then, check out photos below from some of Rockbar Theater’s shows.
Remember to support your local bands and venues (even if they’re closed)! Go To A Show!
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John Tuckness has been photographing rock concerts in the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe area and as far as Northern California since 2004. He tries to attend as many shows as he can. John knew he wanted to be a concert photographer when he went to his first concert, Kiss and Montrose way back in 1976. He saw three guys shooting the show and thought to himself, “that’s what I want to do.” After many years of undercover work (sneaking his camera into venues), he finally got noticed and started getting photo passes through PR people and the bands. John has had many of his photos published in newspapers, websites and band autobiographies.