Guidos

Guidos bar on North Market Street is closing.

If you were driving or walking by 543 N. Market St. in Frederick a little before one in the afternoon on Monday, you probably saw something red attached to the handle of its door. The nondescript building was never one for flashy, bright colors — especially on the exterior — so the mere sight of it may have been enough to grab your attention.

It was a rose, of course — a symbol tied to love, a symbol tied to loss, a symbol meant to define something that won’t easily be forgotten. There it sat, ever poetic, marking the end of an era, the end of something that meant so much to so many.

It marked the end of Guido’s Speakeasy as we know it.

“It kind of broke my heart,” Ben Jardeleza, guitarist for local band Crooked Hills, told me Monday. “I’ve been going there, worked there and playing shows there for 17 years. I never thought I’d ever have to say goodbye.”

Yet now, along with the rest of us, he has to do just that. The news came down suddenly over the weekend in typical Guido’s fashion: No fancy announcement, no elongated goodbye, no official sendoff. Bartenders were notified abruptly that things were coming to an end and it didn’t take long for the word to spread.

Videos, photos and farewells were all posted to a slew of social media platforms Saturday night. The tributes only increased Sunday, and by Monday, all that was left was a rose on a door and three garbage bins on the corner of the street.

It’s been increasingly hard to keep the doors open — there were a few times where it was forced to close for extended periods of time. Things were falling apart. Repair costs began to mount.

In truth, the reasons don’t matter at this point because they’re all moot. Instead, what may go largely unnoticed is how imperative the place was to the cultural fabric of Frederick.

As we all know, you aren’t a true city unless you have a true dive bar right in the heart of it, and if you have one that hosts music, you’ve hit the jackpot. Guido’s offered that and more. Great chicken wings. Even better bleu cheese. Cheap beer. Questionable bathrooms. And a gang of relatable bartenders led by the sweetest, kindest, most pleasant drink-maker in town, Erinn Percival.

None of that, however, was upstaged by the back room, where Guido’s arguably left its most lasting mark. It embodied what it was to be DIY in Frederick. Over the years, so many artists brought so many things — strings of lights, random microphones, the remains of a drum kit — that were magically left there for other bands to use. It was dirty. It had a ceiling-to-floor pillar right in the middle of the action. And if you had a problem with loud music, not a soul would apologize while the volume on the PA system turned up just a little only to spite whomever complained.

It was also my favorite place to play in Frederick. That’s not a knock on anywhere else in town; it’s just that other venues can bring so much pretension to the proceedings. Part of that deals with the strings the city attaches to places that want to host live music, but another part of that is attitude, ego and all the other nasty things that go along with any music scene this side of Antarctica.

Guido’s, though? Guido’s didn’t care. Everyone felt welcome, no matter the age, no matter the race, no matter the gender, no matter your background, no matter your predilections, no matter your musical experience. You went in. You grabbed a beer. You walked to the back. You rocked out so hard, your ears bled. You gave Erinn a hug. And you went home with a smile on your face, feeling like you spent time with the best friends a stranger could ever have.

Music in Frederick owes a lot to Guido’s — so much so that I think it’s going to take time before anyone can realize how truly imperative it’s been to the scene here. For many bands, that wasn’t just the place that housed your first show; it was also the place that housed your only show. And yet it meant so much. So much to the people performing. So much to the people listening. If there was only one room in Frederick that would give you a shot, that room was at 543 N. Market St., across from Cafe 611, next to a firehouse.

“I’m glad I’m not the only nerd who wanted to come see this one last time,” a tattooed man with a beard said to me as I stood there, looking at the rose. He got away before I could ask him his name, which made all the sense in the world because that’s just how Guido’s was: A bunch of us nerds who didn’t know each other, coming together for sing-alongs, chicken wings and memories.

And now, all that’s left is a rose.

Follow Colin McGuire on Twitter: @colinpadraic

(14) comments

ERoss

As someone who has lived in the neighborhood for almost 20 years, Guido's was where my best friendships began and live on today. If you remember when smoking was still allowed, you know what I'm talking about and I'm sad to see it go. Jeff did start something awesome here and it was the place you went when you didn't have to impress anyone. Sayonara stickers in the toilet, squishy barstools, faux fireplace and PBR Fridays!-)

rmaghan1

There’s dive bars and below that is Guido’s. It was a dump which gave it character. Sorry to see it go.

jkjrwhipp

Great article about the music and bands, but no mention of the man who started it. In 2002 Jeff bought the bar, with a little help, from the previous owners. He was the one who opened up that back room and brought in those bands. I watched the door in those early days. He'll probably never see this article or comment, but you can still find him in town. Those who are important know where.

gardenwhimsey

"how imperative the place was to the cultural fabric of Frederick" - I have lived in Frederick City for 66 years and I've never heard of it. I rejoice in one less bar downtown.

pechorin

Thanks for sharing. You definitely sound like the kind of person who has tons of "whimsey" in their life.

Thewheelone

Right on, pechorin!

Dwasserba

Your comment was funny! Guido's was off-centrally located, how could it be missed. "...it’s just that other venues can bring so much pretension to the proceedings." And that's apparently the preferred direction du jour. Really well written eulogy.

rbtdt5

Should probably get out more

RankStranger

I've never understood this sentiment. You had no idea the place existed...which would suggest that it's never been a bother or a thorn in your side. There you are, living in blissful ignorance. So why be happy when a place that brought others a sense of joy and belonging closes down? Is it because you think bars are bad places? If so, I would argue that since you've never heard of Guido's after 66 years of living in downtown Frederick, maybe this is a faulty attitude not rooted in rational thought?

gardenwhimsey

I didn't say I live or lived in downtown Frederick, I said in Frederick City. Sixty-six years in the same neighborhood but not downtown. I do think the number of bars downtown is a great detriment to the city. Occasional outings to a bar or other venue is okay but making a bar a major part of your life is very, very sad.

DonFleming

Is it the drink or the socializing that dampens your "spirits"? Sure the calling card is the alcohol but a good bar is about people, and sharing, and community. I understand your not liking a heavy bar scene but neighbor, a good pub is another thing altogether. Guido's was exactly that. Add in some music and it was a gem. Yup we will miss it.

mheurich

Well said.

DonFleming

Gracious me you really ought to get out and look around. A place like Guido's was just the thing to get a sourpuss to blossom. Will miss the wings, beer, and wonderful times with people who always were ready to share a few words. It was a neighborhood pub with music and more than a little healing. Will miss it.

Ystj

I bet you sure heard of Talons though? Different strokes for different folks.

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