Waking up to the news that our favorite country music venue in Syracuse, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, located in Destiny USA mall in Syracuse, packed up and moved out under a cloud of darkness was sad news for sure.
Covering the show Thursday night with Parmalee, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary, as the venue was packed to the gills to enjoy one of country music’s favorite groups. Wait staff was busily serving drinks and meals while patrons crowded the stage ready to party. Then again last night, country music star Chris Cagle was in town to perform to yet another packed bar. NYSMusic staff present covering the show were scooted out upon completion, raising red flags, while ladders littered the venue as signed guitars and memorabilia were beginning to be taken off the walls.
Opening in 2013, the national chain who is named after one of country music’s legends, welcomed several national acts each month while featuring local country music artists throughout the years. Rumors of financial difficulties here and nationwide swirled around the venue. However, after the business caught up on local taxes last year, patrons thought those issues were behind them.
Although it’s named after country music’s Toby Keith, other than his name the country music star has no interest in the chain. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill was truly one we “loved” to work with, and it will be surely missed by all. We raise our red solo cups to a great run and bid farewell to one of our favorite venues.
After a few days of letting the news sink in, I couldn’t help but feel that there was so much more to be said about the clandestine closing of Toby Keith’s over the weekend. NYSMusic.com worked closely with the corporate office over the course of the last year so I wanted to reach out to get their side of the story.
John Thomas, Vice President of Marketing for Boomtown Entertainment, parent company to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill’s graciously spoke with me today regarding the closing. He explained that it was a financial decision surrounded by tense relations with Destiny USA. Assuring me that all questions about past due taxes had been taken care of, he was confident in stating that through litigation all questions will be answered and patrons will understand the decision more so at that time.
I asked him, why so secretive? Why not tell patrons and let them celebrate by raising a red solo cup at a farewell party? He stated that after eight years in the business, there really is never an easy way of doing this. I can see this point of view. If Toby’s announced, there would be backlash, if they didn’t announce, there would be backlash. Either way it’s a no win situation for all involved. John Thomas took this particular closing difficult as he had spent several years up in our area (Rochester) in radio programming, so this location was one he had a personal interest in seeing succeed. The market itself was very receptive, and the shows and crowds outstanding. In fact they had some amazing shows lined up for the remainder of the year for this location, so the closing of the location was not a decision they took lightly when making their decision.
John Thomas asked me to please relay this message to all that frequented the establishment. “It’s a sad day. We are upset that we’ve had to cease operations in Syracuse. We thank everyone in Upstate and Central NY, all of guests, patrons, staff, musicians, country music lovers, and our partner B104.7. It’s an unfortunately situation that we had to make that business decision, but we felt it was in our best interest, and we hope to announce something new in the near future.”
Leaving me wondering what that “something new in the near future” would be, I truly will miss the great times and good music I shared with my readers from Toby’s, and hold out hope that soon a new country music venue to will come to town that I once again can bring my readers all the latest and greatest from Nashville.