Another popular Frederick restaurant and music venue closed its doors over the weekend.

“The Blue Side Tavern is officially closed as of 11/24. Sorry & thank you for your support,” a sign at the Bentz Street bar read Monday morning.

The move was abrupt, according to many who were on staff. Nic Cusic, who worked as The Blue Side’s sous-chef, said Monday that he was part of a group of people who received an email Sunday night from the establishment’s owner, Michael Long. In the email, Long stated his intention to close down the business.

“Everybody is in shock,” Cusic said. “It feels kind of like a death in the family. I’ve been up since seven this morning with employees talking to me, asking me about what happened.”

Cusic also said the email was vague when it came to the reasons behind the closing, and even he wasn’t sure why it had to shut its doors. While the website for the restaurant still exists, its Facebook page has since been deleted. Long, meanwhile, did not return emails or phone calls for this story.

Chris Perry, who occasionally worked with Long on bringing music to the restaurant, speculated Monday why Long may have closed up shop.

“He owns the building and the business,” Perry said. “He probably just wanted to do one over the other.”

The Blue Side opened in 2015, replacing the Bentz Street Raw Bar, a beloved eatery itself to a good number of Frederick residents. The name The Blue Side, according to its website, was inspired by “The Blue Side of the Mountain,” a song by The SteelDrivers.

A destination for local entertainment, it also became a hub for soccer fans around Frederick County, showing international matches on all of its televisions each weekend and offering drink specials to help lure in patrons. It also hosted parties and events. As recently as last week, it provided the stage for Frederick’s Impact Club, which as part of its quarterly meeting, awarded The Safe Ride Foundation nearly $30,000 in funding to help curb drunken driving.

In recent years, The Blue Side also played host to open bluegrass jams every Monday night. Jason Hannan, guitar player of local country music outfit Michelle Hannan and One Blue Night, said he received a text message Monday morning explaining that this week’s gathering was canceled. When asked about how he thinks its closing might affect the local bluegrass scene, he was adamant about the importance of the restaurant’s legacy.

“It’s a hard place to replace because it was a large venue with a big stage,” Hannan said. “I hope another music venue will open there, because what’s really going to be missed is that it was the only place to host bluegrass, country, Americana — that kind of music. It was the place to go to in Frederick for original roots music. There’s no other place around here to support that kind of stuff now.”

While his band was scheduled to play there in February, Marly Hardin, who booked entertainment for the venue, explained Monday afternoon that the shows scheduled for the coming months are off. Having been responsible for music in the restaurant in 2015 and 2016, she only recently returned to booking the venue. With its doors now shut, she said, she hopes that there will be a new place that emerges to host similar artists.

“We had some really good shows in there,” she said. “The People’s Blues of Richmond. The Plate Scrapers. One Blue Night. There were so many. I’m so sorry that it closed. It was a pleasure working with everybody there. They had such a solid crew. Hopefully, somebody can take the space and do something with it.”

Cusic, meanwhile, lamented the loss after his 3½ years working at The Blue Side by recalling how familial its atmosphere was. Having spent years working at a corporate restaurant, going to work on Bentz Street, he said, was a breath of fresh air.

“When I worked at corporate, I was miserable,” he said. “Every day at The Blue Side, I couldn’t wait to get in there. It was all family — that’s what I loved about it. Sometimes, we yelled at each other, but at the end of the night, we would have a beer with each other. It was just all love.

“[Long] has been so grateful,” he added. “He’s like a brother to me. Or a father — he was always there to listen and I could talk to him about anything. It was just now starting to get bigger and bigger. There’s definitely going to be a void in Frederick now. I loved it.”

Follow Colin McGuire on Twitter: @colinpadraic.

(26) comments

Natashatk

I feel for the musicians that are needing a place to perform, and be appreciated. I never had bad service at blueside. I support Mark in his thoughts of showing appreciation and respect for the musicians that are entertaining us. Frederick needs a good music venue that is willing to remove the TV and offer an open mic for those that love the art to enjoy it. There was alot of opportunity there, unfortunately was not managed to support and focus on music. Could never see if there was an open mic list, or visit facebook, Instagram, or even see a board with upcoming bands or on the rise talent. There was possibility here, but unfortunately the drive to market this art was not there. It's a shame they had to close with no warning. Heartbreaking for the staff, the musicians and those that wandered here for good people and good music. Hopefully someone will recognize and see the lessons at play, turn around and make a music venue that will pull everyone together, and to appreciate the sweet sounds of this art.

shiftless88

Sounds like you know what needs to be done so step up!

Natashatk

If only I had the money to fund it. :( the restaurant business is super competitive, and if you don't have a solid model that everyone sticks to... your vision converts to just getting by, resulting in sacrifice of what you dreamed just to make ends meet.

dirtorsoil

Maybe pick a business model and stick to it? You cannot simultaneously be _both_ a sports bar and a live music in a open venue that appeared to have been an auto shop at some time. The space should have been partitioned up into performance area and sports bar. The TV's were always blaring at that space. They also did not capitalize on the deck enough. It was by far the most visible space from the creek. However, when you got close up the deck was old and warped. Surprised someone did not fall down the stairs and hurt themselves. Someone else will do a better job on using the space b/c its a prime location.

KR999

The left side of the building used to be the Blue Bird Diner, one of just a few places a sixteen year old guy could buy beer back in '71.

mustang1068

No surprise to me. Should have been a great venue ruined by horrible drink prices, rude bartenders. No investment at all in fixing it up - they couldn't even get level tables in that place.

dirtorsoil

But they spent so much money on those trendy Edison bulbs from West Elm! (sarcasm here) Agreed about the tables and lack of investment. The restaurant industry is too competitive in Frederick for such a lackluster place to survive.

frazed

I definitely feel bad for the workers especially at this time of the year. I can't say that I'm sad to see it to go though. When your feet weren't sticking to the floor they were simply a few wood fibers away from falling through the floor.

Roboticbrady

You sure you went there? That doesn't describe it at all.

Joeseamhead

I agree. Look, it was a honky-tonk, not a 5 Star restaurant. And if a bartender in there was rude to you, maybe you should look in the mirror. I never experienced rudeness, nor saw it, though during very busy times they were understaffed.

Rulaj

In the opinion piece, you wrote “ a quick walk down Bentz Street might yield some answers”

It sounded very ominous. What did you mean???

Burgessdr

Bad news

rastafishi

It doesn’t surprise me, although they had great live music that place had the worst service of any venue in Frederick.

Joeseamhead

Funny, I always had satisfactory service and my wife and I were in there several times a month. Oh, I have had worse service in understaffed venues in Frederick.

sevenstones1000

I always had great service, too.

markruns50

Mike had a great concept, but our area just doesn't seem to be ready to support the singer/songwriter rootsy music type acts that the place featured. I would go and find it disappointing that good musicians would be playing and people were barely paying attention. I would hear people cheer for a football game on tv sets in the place louder than they would applaud a live performer on-stage.

I certainly get the feeling that people want Frederick to have a healthy arts and entertainment culture, but it's certainly got a ways to go. It could start by people just being mindful and appreciative when an aspiring atist is performing. I've listened to some very good ones in this area, but I've often felt like I was one of the very few in the room paying attention. If you want to nurture and attract good entertainment to the area, IT STARTS BY SHOWING SOME APPRECIATION! I suggest to everyone that goes out and hears an artist perform, stop watching tv and listen. People paying attention and expressing appreciation brings out the best in any artist.

The closest Blueside came to this was on open circle bluegrass Monday nigts when as many as 20 musicians would display their craft and collaborate on a variety of their favorite songs allowing each musician to take a lead at any point of the evening. Some people recognize how much talent it takes to improvise music on the fly like this, so the crowd that came was normally more attentive but not very large. I'm really going to miss those. I've lived in other places where such rare displays would develop a big following. It's just not happening here in Frederick. Not saying that things couldn't have been done better at Blueside. Pesonally, I would've turned the tv's off and asked the crowd to show some respect for the musicians that came to play, but you can't force people to be respectful. All I can say is that the next time any of us are in a place where an artist is performing, just remember that the live human on stage deserves more of your consideration than the tv on the wall. It not only benefits the artist, it benefits our community as well. If you cheer for the tv on the wall, it impacts nothing. But if you cheer for live performers right in front of you, the performances will just keep getting better! I want to thank Mike Long for trying to provide us a place where that at least had a chance to happen. Maybe Frederick will get there one day. Until then, we'll just have to be satisfied with a steady diet tv's on the wall with an occasional cover band for people to treat as background noise.

Joeseamhead

Thanks for a well thought out post.

Thewheelone

Well done, marksrun50. You have hit the nail squarely on the head![thumbup][thumbup]

sevenstones1000

Just a thought, but how about turning off the TV sets when the musicians are playing?

markruns50

That's what I think as well. That place is large enough that you could have tv's off in the area where the musicians were performing and leave them on in the other parts of the place. On bluegrass nights, the performers would wrap up the set and then go off to the side and continue to jam with each other, but rather than just letting that cool vibe of listening to musicians collaborating, the staff would turn on recorded music and drown them out. I never had the feeling that everybody was on the same page about what the place was about. But I still enjoyed it more than any other venue in Frederick because there are so few venues capable of hosting live entertainment without being cramped.

shiftless88

It is interesting that the owner didn't just go ahead and stop featuring live music. I doubt that was the problem.

Jasonhannan

Mark, as usual you're right on point. We always appreciated your support for live music.

ewokieee

I didnt go ever week , But when , I came into town , I hit the deck in the summers , Fall inside , a step back in time, Food was always No complaints , Staff worked hard , Id say he and the staff made , It pretty dam good . Mr long has proven success in downtown , time in and out . The place was always kinda dumpy , where the landlord at time had differnt ideas , Mr long , Stuck his arm out And made a vital impact to the community as a whole. I look forward to seeing whats on his next venture . Perhaps more elbow grease perhaps less , But himself and the staff have proven 1 thing A solid core of family , U cant take that away ... Nor the sound of some of the best blues acts around , So actually, Thank u for your years of kindness .

Jasonhannan

Sad to see another music venue bite the dust. Get out and support live music, folks.

Joeseamhead

I feel for the staff getting the shaft right before Christmas, and for all of the musicians that lose another venue to play. That’s three Frederick places that have closed in the past 2 months that regularly hosted music, plus Cactus Flats has Sunday Bluegrass is now up for sale. I just heard that Eric Avey, who put on the Old Line Bluegrass gig every Monday at BlueSide will be carrying that over to the new Smoketown Brewery On the Creek starting next week.

Comment deleted.
Natashatk

There was great music. Stop trolling.

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