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Bringing Back Live Music To The Bop Stop

The Bop Stop has been a West Side fixture for about 16 years [Bop Stop]
The Bop Stop sign along Detroit Avenue on the near West side has greeted music fans for about 16 years.

The Cleveland Music Settlement brought new life into a shuttered jazz club in 2014 by restarting operations at the Bop Stop on the city’s Near West Side. That life came to an abrupt halt in mid-March when pandemic precautions shut down the music. But, Bop Stop Director Gabe Pollack has some ideas about getting his club bopping again, after the coronavirus gut punch.

A night at the Bop Stop before pandemic health concerns closed the club [Bop Stop]

“Between mid-March and I’d say mid-July, I've had about 70 concerts cancel, and it's looking like that will be a loss in revenue of about probably like around $90,000,” Pollock said. “A lot of people say, “Oh, that's okay, you're a nonprofit. But the Bop Stop actually operates at 90 percent earned revenue and 10 percent of our revenue’s contributed. So, that is a pretty significant impact for us.”

It’s been tough for small concert venues all over, and the Bop Stop recently joined the National Independent Venue Association, along with a number of other local clubs.

“The main focus is to rally together, to lobby, to secure federal aid,” Pollock said. “Independent venues are kind of in a unique situation where we can operate as a restaurant or bar, but there's so much more to consider with the production of concerts.”

It might be a little easier for the Bop Stop to be just a restaurant or a bar, which can reopen May 21, according to the state of Ohio. But, that doesn’t account for entertainment.

Bop Stop by day [Cleveland Music Settlement]

“Bringing us back will mean bringing back musicians and a lot of facets of the music and entertainment industry that we can't support just operating as a bar,” Pollock said. “And specifically with the Bob Stop, since we are a nonprofit, our mission is all about the music."

Operating as a bar doesn't stay in line with that mission, which is something Pollack said he takes seriously. 

He got him to thinking about taking the music outside his space. Pollock also started doing a little research, taking a poll of his email subscribers about bringing live music back to the club.

Gabe Pollock says he speaks to the crowd before every performance [Bop Stop]

“Even following CDC guidelines, if we could reopen next week, about 50 percent of my clients still would not step foot inside the Bop Stop,” he said. “They feel like it's too soon to do that. And I agree with them."

“At the same time. If music was happening outdoors, about 70 percent of my patrons were willing to attend a live outdoor event where people are socially distanced and CDC guidelines are held to,” he said. 

So now, his focus is on either his parking lot or a small park area just outside the Bop Stop. He reached out to his councilman and the community development corporation, Ohio City Incorporated, to explore that potential. 

“We're working towards that as if at some point this will all become legal,” he said. 

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.