Bill’s Blues fails to pay fees, bar to close next week

Emilia Barrosse

After battling months of financial troubles, Bill’s Blues will close next week.

“I’m really sad and disappointed,” said Bill Gilmore, the bar’s owner and founder. “But then again, I’m also really relieved. I’ve worked harder in the past year than I ever have in my life, and I’m known for my work ethic. So in a sense, it’s a relief.”

The recession has taken a major toll on Bill’s Blues, 1029 Davis St., causing a drop in customers and revenue, he said. The bar, which opened in 2003, was known for its live jam sessions and performances, ranging from blues to folk to indie.

The bar failed to pay their state license fees and rent, said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who signed the order to close the bar.

“They owed so much money that they had to close,” Tisdahl said. “It would take a year before they could reapply for a license.”

The bar needed $50,000 to stay afloat, and there were initiatives to keep the establishment in business, but none could raise the necessary funds, Gilmore said.

Although it was necessary to close the bar, the city’s residents will miss the bar’s trendy environment and vivacity, Tisdahl said.

“I like the blues, and I like the atmosphere,” she said. “It’s definitely a loss to the city. I’m sorry I had to sign the order to close them down.”

Gilmore said he was most proud of the diversity of patrons at Bill’s Blues.

“We had a diverse crowd racially, economically and even age-wise,” Gilmore said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough of everybody.”

Medill freshman Ben Shartar regrets never visiting the bar.

“I recently have gotten into blues music, so I really wanted to go to Bill’s,” Shartar said. “It’s a shame it’s closing down because it looked like a fun, intimate and close-by venue to hear some good local music.”

Gilmore said he first noticed a significant decrease in attendance in September 2008. The bar’s liquor license was revoked earlier this month after Gilmore failed to make payments.

“Fewer people were coming, and the few who were coming were spending less money,” Gilmore said. “Our core blues group was by and large North Shore people who owned a house and had kids, so they were saving money.”

Despite this loss, Gilmore said he has plans for the future. When he has sufficient funds, he will attempt to open another music club similar to Bill’s Blues closer to Chicago.

“I’m just going to try to make money so I can send my kid to college,” Gilmore said. “That’s what’s most important to me at this point.”

Shartar said he thinks the closing of Bill’s Blues is indicative of the changing times.

“Most venues for music are in Chicago, so one closing so close to campus is kind of sad,” Shartar said. “It is another sign of the slow death of local music joints.”

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