Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Phoenix Cafe, at 641 Walnut St, had the reputation of being the only bar to be open in Cincinnati continuously since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Their policy of enforcing ladylike behavior by not allowing women to sit at the bar drew the ire of the feminist movement in the 60s. It was a place where the working poor could get a longneck for a buck. It was a place a guy could squander his welfare check. It was a dive. The Cincinnati Business district used to be a welcoming place to the poor. White Castle, The Phoenix cafe, The Belmont Cafe & The Milner hotel and lounge all catered to the lower economic classes and were happy to serve the wealthy as well.
They are all gone now as the area has gradually become an exclusive playground for the affluent. The business district always had it's havens for the affluent like The Palm Court and The Maisonette. But the yuppies have decided to set the cultural tone and those places were too stuffy for them and the low class dives were not only beneath them but an affront to their sensibilities.
After finally shutting the Phoenix Cafe down after 70 plus years in business, it will be replaced with the Righteous Room, another in a chain of bars owned by a group of investors known for their yuppie frou frou establishments. I would guess that 70 years in business on the same location would merit the designation of institution. Will the Righteous Room become an institution ?
Doubt it. Probably last a few years as a trendy meatrack & then change hands, names and do it all over again and again in an endless cycle. It won't be a cycle of failure, of course, because nobody expects the places to last.
I realize that money talks, but sometimes it just steamrolls. I fear the era of institutions is coming to an end.


SecondComingOfBast said...

Yeah, it was an institution, but let's face it, it was a dive. I went there a few times, and believe me when I tell you, I have a hard time remembering why I went more than once. I must have already been drunk and looking to get laid.

I used to go to the Red Horse too, which was a couple of rungs up the ladder. Also, my favorite, The Saloon, which was the former establishment of Larry Flynt. I think I fell in love in that place more often than in any other place on the face of the earth.

The Office was probably the classiest place I went to in the area.

The Phoenix, I am afraid, was for the winos. Even at their prices, you always felt cheated.

Quimbob said...

HA !
I can honestly say I never saw anything worth fucking at the Phoenix.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Yeah, granted, but when you've already had a few too many and you're running low on money, you'd be surprised at the depths to which you'd descend. All those places down there were rip-off joints, really, but I just couldn't tear myself away from them, especially The Saloon. I was not an alcoholic, I was a barholic. I cured myself of the addiction by going a few times, drinking nothing but coke, and just watching football, talking to people and listening to the music. You'd be surprised how easily you can break the bar habit that way.