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DC club The Black Cat celebrates 25th anniversary, and shrinking in half


Washington DC’s The Black Cat is celebrating its 25th anniversary this weekend with a pair of shows featuring Ted Leo, Ex Hex, Subhumans, Algiers, and more. Located in DC’s historic U Street Corridor, the club (whose initial investors included Dave Grohl) has seen the neighborhood change a lot since it opened in 1993, from a hub of arts and nightlife to one that now includes a Trader Joe’s and other big retail chains. As The Washington Post reports, the club is fighting to survive in these changing times by shrinking. The side Red Room Bar and smaller Backstage performance room will both close by year’s end and The Black Cat, which owns the building, will rent the space to retail tenants. Both the Red Room and Backstage will reopen as one space upstairs. Owner Dante Fernando talked about the club’s plans with The Post:

“The dynamics have changed a lot,” says Ferrando. “People don’t spend two hours after the show hanging out at the bar till 1 in the morning.”

Twelve years ago, the city’s smoking ban started sending his customers outside, Ferrando says. “That’s an opportunity to leave.” Then there’s pot, which “makes them drink less,” and “hipster bars,” as he calls them, populating every corner from Adams Morgan to Shaw.

“It’s a lot prettier than it used to be,” acknowledges Rod Glover, co-owner of Home Rule, a home-goods store that opened in 1995, just a couple doors down from the Black Cat. When the owners first took down the plywood that had boarded up the space for decades, they found shattered glass from the 1968 riots on the floor inside.

“What’s changed is the type of people who live there,” he says. “I’m not sure it has quite the same sense of community as it once had. . . . It used to be a lot more diverse neighborhood, and it is a lot more white.”

The neighborhood’s main lure has become its restaurants and national furniture chains; the newly built apartments rent for several thousand dollars a month. Ferrando remembers a time when most of his employees lived in the neighborhood and could walk to work. “If my employees have been priced out,” he says, “my regulars have been priced out.”

The Black Cat’s 700-capacity main room remains one of DC’s most popular mid-size venues and their calendar includes shows with Dinosaur Jr, Public Image Ltd, Guided by Voices, The Damned, and more.

Check out the flyer for the Black Cat’s 25th anniversary weekend, below.


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