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Bar stays, Nick Spencer does not

Just feeding my social networking Web site addiction this morning/afternoon and I see a bulletin just minutes ago on MySpace that Alchemize – the former Over-the-Rhine hip bar owned by Nick Spencer, which moved to Northside in the midst of a giant heap of unneeded controversy last year – is not moving or otherwise closing after all.

But it’s getting a new name and it has gotten rid of Spencer, the twice-unsuccessful candidate for Cincinnati City Council and big-thinker on young professionals issues.

“All the bartenders, staff, and DJs, with the exception of Nick Spencer, will still be working at this location. That’s really all that needs to be said about that situation,” the poster on the Alchemize MySpace page wrote. “Although we still love the Alchemize name, the press and drama of the last year have tarnished the image to a degree that we feel it’s time for a fresh start with a new name. Other than that, expect the same great atmosphere and events you’re used to, and we’re excited to move forward with bigger and better things!”

Postings to MySpace a few months ago first started as pleas to find a buyer for the building in Northside and climaxed into full-out accusations that the owners of the building had deceived the operators of Alchemize. In a call-to-action, Spencer warned that all the bartenders customers had come to love would be leaving with him.

In an Enquirer story that was spawned by the MySpace bulletins, the owners fired back saying Spencer was not upholding his end of the bargain, including paying his rent and mismanaging the bar’s finances. Those claims echoed similar issues raised by the owners of the building that housed Alchemize in Over-the-Rhine. Spencer denied all the claims. Cincinnati CityBeat has more from then, including the text of Spencer’s long post explaining his side of things.

In a Cincinnati Post story I wrote a few weeks ago, former Hamburger Mary’s co-owner Nigel Cotterill announced he would be using the Over-the-Rhine building for a new martini bar called Below Zero.

The MySpace post is signed by two “co-founders of Alchemize,” Kevin Carlisle and Puck Dunaway. Something makes me think we haven’t heard the end of this.

I haven’t been to Alchemize since its move to Northside. Frankly, I thought Spencer’s handling of his departure from Over-the-Rhine was deceitful at worst, and at best was a botched attempt to take on Cincinnati City Council after they failed to help him fund his Desdemona music festival. Several Council members attempted to help Spencer fund the festival, but Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, chairman of the Arts, Culture, Tourism & Marketing Committee, told me at the time he needed more than a few weeks notice for these types of requests. Arts organizations all over the city lobby hard for these funds, he said at the time.

Soon after, Alchemize’s departure from Over-the-Rhine turned into a series of unfounded, undeserved and horrific press for the neighborhood. Spencer said crime was rampant and his customers felt unsafe and his employees vehicles were being vandalized. Turns out standing in front of your bar and loudly announcing that you are dialing 9-1-1 on your cell phone makes some unsavory characters hostile, even if they were say, uh, drug dealers, pimps or prostitutes and fully aware they were not following the law. Go figure? I was a little shocked to witness this brazenness on one occasion, and know clearly if there is reason to call the police you don’t tell everyone you’re the one doing it. I think my mama told me that.

Way to take a few others down with you on your way out, eh? Business is tough. Losses are sometimes hard to take. I know this firsthand. Spencer, who had some of the best ideas for attracting, retaining and building a creative class in Cincinnati and elsewhere, now seems to be working hard to ailenate the city he once claimed to want to strengthen, and that saddens me greatly.

UPDATE: The Cincinnati Blog had a touch of the latest in this brouhaha first, via an article by my friend Lauren Bishop in the Enquirer. I missed the update that the Northside Alchemize will be re-named Decibel Lounge and Spencer vows to re-open Alchemize elsewhere.

Bar stays, Nick Spencer does not Comment

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