Sometimes it takes a person who lives thousands of miles away to make it clear how special something is that’s right in your hometown—and that’s true even if it some of the luster was temporarily lost. When I talked tonight to Karen Foley, the new general manager of Bogart’s (she assumed the position in September of last year), she made it clear right away that she had great respect for the club on short Vine in Corryville.
“I came from Arizona and I had done my research, and I knew that Bogart’s was an iconic venue,” she said. “Everybody knew about it. Unfortunately when I got here the building the neighborhood was less than desirable. There was graffiti on the front door to welcome me. And the bathrooms, I wouldn’t even use them.”
So where did she start?
“The first order of business to remove the graffiti,” Karen stated, “that and remove the smell, which was a combination of cigarettes and alcohol. I left and after 15 minutes ran up to Kroger and bought the cleaning supplies and I was on my hands and knees and cleaning.”
Visually the inside was also in need of a change.
“The club was very dark,” she said. “The walls were dark, and it had this gloomy atmosphere over it. Right away I made a mental note of what we needed painted. I went back to Arizona for a week, and I left them a list of things to do: paint the front of building, clean the sidewalks, get the graffiti off the walls and the bathrooms. I reached in my wallet and gave them a couple hundred bucks and said, here’s some money. No excuses, make it happen.”
“When I got back we remodeled,” she said, “and the bathrooms were repainted.”
Karen expressed enthusiasm for her staff, who received a pep talk right off the bat. “You got to love to work here,” I told them. I mean, we’re lucky. There are only a handful of people who get to work in the music business.”
Just how much enthusiasm Karen has for Bogart’s became clear to me when I ran into her on the street one day and—even though I was a total stranger—she gave me a tour of the building while pointing out some of the changes she had made. Her enthusiasm also extends beyond the walls of Bogart’s to the neighborhood of Corryville, as I’ll make clear in upcoming blog entries over the next few days on good things happening at Bogart’s and in the surrounding neighborhood.