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.
When Michael Long was growing up, he would often frequent soccer bars in Baltimore, Alexandria and Washington, D.C.
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.”
If you see him, chances are you’ll know him. And if you talk to him, chances are you’ll like him.
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.”