Daniel Deutsch knows a lot about bars and nightclubs.
He was the manager and bartender of Scorgie’s, the famed 1970s downtown nightclub that staged shows by Colorblind James Experience, the Cramps, New Math and the Ramones.
Deutsch also sold advertising space in Freetime for 23 years. He left the magazine a few years ago for family reasons. With those issues resolved, it was time to get back to business.
In October 2007, he bought the former Tara Lounge on Liberty Pole Way for $170,000 and spent nearly $50,000 to renovate it as the Abilene Bar & Lounge, which opened in March 2008.
Much of the renovation involved new floors and paint in the two-story building, which has an eclectic feel with walls adorned with music posters.
"Aesthetically, it looks entirely different," Deutsch says. "There’s a second floor that looks quite different, also. There’s an outdoor patio that’s like a jewel.
"It’s a hidden gem in downtown Rochester. You’re sitting outside, and you look one way and you’re in the shadow of the old Sibley’s building. You look the other way and you’re in the shadow of the Harro."
Abilene is in a two-story edifice built in 1870. Tara, a gay bar, operated there for 28 years before its owners closed it in 2007.
"I had never been in it prior to a Realtor showing it to me," Deutsch says. "I looked at it and fell in love with the place.
"I’ve wanted something downtown; I’m a firm believer in downtown. And the building itself is very interesting."
Abilene’s bar features 75 brands of bottled beer, including microbrews and craft beers. It offers a regular schedule of live music-usually alternative country-at least three nights a week, starting at 9 p.m. There is no cover charge.
The upstairs lounge also books private parties and book clubs, among other group events.
"We’ve done Trivia Night up there," Deutsch says. "We have a group called Drinking Liberal that meets here every Thursday. We talk politics over some good craft beers."
With Deutsch, 54, nearing his second anniversary as a business owner, his bar is growing in popularity. It is one of two new host locations for the 2010 Rochester International Jazz Festival.
"I feel like I live here," he says, seated on a bar stool on the first floor before opening Abilene for the day. "It takes an awful lot of time, but I’ve been blessed in that the customers that come in here, almost without exception, are great."
Adds Deutsch: "They’re really good people. I like hanging out here. I like working here.
"It’s a constant challenge. No one is getting rich, but it gets better day by day."
He describes Abilene as a neighborhood corner saloon with comfortable surroundings, with a capacity of fewer than 100.
Deutsch does not disclose financial details but says the business is growing.
"The recognition of the place, and the buzz about it, gets stronger all the time," he says. "I’m convinced it’s going to work."
Deutsch typically works with Harro East concert promoters on events there. For instance, tickets for the Jan. 20 performance by Ani DiFranco are available at Abilene.
"I always bristle at those people who say downtown is dead and there’s nothing going on," Deutsch says. "I think just the opposite. There’s a lot going on, week after week, day in and day out."
"There’s obviously a block of blight over on Main and Clinton," he says. "But if you take East Avenue from where it begins and goes out, it’s busy. And there are little pockets-and I think we’re one of them over here-where we’re doing business."
Abilene’s inclusion in the Jazz Festival club pass is a step up for its music repertoire, Deutsch says. The fence separating the patio from the parking lot used by Abilene patrons will be taken down, and a tent will go up over an L-shaped concert site that will showcase the festival’s Roots and Americana Series from June 11 to 19.
"We’re going to have capacity for between 400 and 500 people, two shows a night for nine nights in a row," Deutsch says. "We’re thrilled to be a part of it.
"I’ve been here for two summers, and the best times we’ve had have been during those weeks of Jazz Fest," he adds. "We’ve become this little pit stop during the Jazz Festival. This year we’re going to be more than a pit stop."
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