This week, in a space where we generally lambast or praise events on the harder side of the news cycle, we bemoan an unthinkable development on the cultural side of things: the apparent demise of the Garage in downtown Winston-Salem, the best rock room in the Triad.
In its own way, the Garage has been as important to the development of downtown as the Innovation Quarter, Krankies or Hanesbrands Theatre — in some ways even more so, because it came first.
Richard Emmett opened that place on a dollar and a dream in a neighborhood most people had already written off. This was before the Silver Moon, which Emmett opened around the corner a few years later, before Finnigan’s Wake, before 6th & Vine and even before Elliot’s Revue, the divey little spot that grew across the street and would eventually morph into Test Pattern. The area around the corner of Sixth and Trade streets had not yet been officially designated as the Arts District when the Garage first opened its doors.
Through its all-too-short history, the Garage blended seamlessly into the city’s landscape and also drove it into new territory with experimental acts and off-the-nose bookings. And though it is not the largest outpost on the cultural map, the Garage is too big to fail.
In his missive to the press and business communities, current owner Tucker Tharpe announced that the Garage’s “last show” will be on New Year’s Eve. And though — in inimitable Tucker style — he left room for interpretation as to the club’s final fate, it’s clear that the community to which the Garage has contributed so much needs to give back.
And by that we mean that the city’s institutions should subsidize it or buy it outright.
It’s not such a strange proposition. The town of Carrboro regularly sponsors events at the Cat’s Cradle. The Orange Peel in Asheville got a $50,000 grant and a $250,000 loan from the Buncombe County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau in 2009, jump-starting a major expansion. The city of Los Angeles owns the Greek Theatre outright; same deal with Denver and Red Rocks. And of course, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex is public property, too.
The live-music business is a tough one, and it’s more difficult than ever for clubs to stay open, let alone turn a profit.
But the Garage is essential to the city’s nightlife, a key factor in its retention of young people and integral to the overall character of the city and the neighborhood in which it stands.
It’s worth saving, any way we can.