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Indie haven Mohawk Place to close in January

Mohawk Place – the gritty downtown rock venue that for 18 years has been home to local and national indie bands and the fans who came to experience them – will close in January.

“It is with sadness that we have to announce that for reasons out of our control we will be closing after January 12,” read an unsigned post on the club’s website.

Scott Leary, who bought Mohawk Place in 2009 from longtime owner Peter V. Perrone, declined to comment and referred questions to bar manager Erik Roeser, who confirmed the closing date of Jan. 12 and cited “ongoing legal battles” as a factor.

Over the years, touring acts including the White Stripes, the Black Keys, Sam Roberts, the Mekons and the Donnas played inside 47 E. Mohawk St. So did performers from earlier generations, including John Cale and Link Wray.

Still, it was the hundreds of local bands – from the Irving Klaws and the Global Village Idiots to Baseball Furies and Johnny Nobody – that were the club’s mainstay, and the club’s closing was met by the local music scene Sunday with both sadness and concern.

“Mohawk Place is in the pantheon of local rock clubs, up there with the Continental, McVan’s and Stage 1,” said Marty Boratin, a mainstay of the local music scene who booked Mohawk Place for four years and continues to supply weekly write-ups on bands playing there.

“The club is where up-and-coming indie rock bands have cut their teeth for the last 20 years. Its closing is a loss and a blow, to them and for national touring acts.”

Several musicians weighed in on the closing with regret.

“I thought it was a great venue and a great place to play,” said Kim Mason, who performed there once several years ago.

“When I started my band Lee Ron Zydeco, [former owner] Pete [Perrone] was one of the first guys to give me a gig, which was a weird mix because there were all these Goth alternative bands,” Ron Davis added. “He actually gave me quite a few gigs and got me going.”

Thousands of bands played the club through the years. Boratin remembered 88 bands alone played the last month he booked the club, about eight years ago. It was also a place where performers for many years could get a home-cooked meal and a free place to stay, often courtesy of Boratin.

Several years ago, Leary enhanced the club by upgrading the sound system and moving the stage to improve sight lines. In more recent years, the club started to skew younger by presenting more all-ages shows that attracted mostly 18- to 21-year-olds. Alternative country, once an important part of the music mix, found a new home at Sportsmen’s Tavern, taking that portion of the older audience with it.

As rumors of the club’s demise spread, Boratin said, he began fielding phone calls from booking agents wondering where else their bands could play – with no easy solution. “There’s not [another] medium-size-capacity rock room in the area for touring bands with the capacity for 150 to 200 people,” Boratin said.

Donny Kutzbach, co-owner of Funtime Presents and the Town Ballroom, also expressed disappointment. He promoted shows there for 11 years, and with his band Semi-Tough played more than 50 gigs.

“It was a place that inspired me so much, not just booking, but also playing in bands. It’s a place that I wanted to be all the time. I spent so many hours there over the last 15 years,” Kutzbach said. He said he hoped another place would be found to “fill the void” that Mohawk will leave behind.

Dwane Hall, owner of the Sportsmen’s Tavern, expressed surprise over the club’s closing.

“I can remember being listed the very first time with Mohawk and Nietszche’s, and I was thrilled to be in the same paragraph with those guys. It’s too bad, because we’re going to be losing a great club. Maybe somebody will straighten it out and get in there and reopen it,” Hall said.

The last show will have several local bands that have been regularly featured at the club over the years, including Girlpope, Bobo and Chylde.

News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers contributed to this report. email: