Reptile House is finally gone

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Sugarcubes Forever
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Reptile House is finally gone

Post by Sugarcubes Forever » Thu Jun 20, 2002 9:26 am

For all of you who grew up in West Michigan and remember the only bar that could ever host the band Billygoat, a poetry slam, a bondage night, DJ Colin Clive and Danzig all in one week, the old Reptile House sign has finally been pulled down. The building is undergoing a renovation to lofts and an art gallery.

Although the bar on the corner of Cherry and Division shut it's doors amid rumors of the owners nose candy habit and repeated run-ins with the GRPD in the mid 90s, the sign above the locked door somehow mysteriously remained lit every night since it's closing. The pale white light of the sign was like a midwest punk version of the biblical oil lamp. As long as the sign was lit, a drive down South Division would stir up fond memories. People from the area talk of the place from memory almost as if it were CBGBs. And in a way it was, at least for the corn fed children of Kent county's baby boomers. Forget the fact that the bar had shitty service. Nevermind that for the last year it was open there were no toilets, just holes in the floor. Who cares that the $1 Skull Beer drafts were actually filled with Natural Light. Beginning in 1990 it was the only bar in west michigan with cage dancers and cute punk chics serving cheap drinks and attitude.

In the bar's final year the owner expanded into the building next door. The secondary space, dubbed The Shelter, hosted a lot of fun all ages (read as no beer) shows for the burgeoning emo and ska teens of the area. For the last couple of years the Shelter building has been home to Skeletones, a post alternative christian coffee shop catering to teens who think that Rancid's original lineup included Sid Vicious. Don't even ask them about the Bullock Brothers!

The loss of the teen jam space nextdoor wasn't so much of a big deal. It had laid vacant for several years right along side of the old "lizard lounge". But the building never really had the memories associated with it that the Reptile had. It was always an afterthought. There is much doubt today whether the Young Life alternateens sipping Red Bull at Skeletones even know of the building's history.

Anyway, the old Reptile sign has been turned down and one of Grand Rapids' newer generations of bar owners has decided to move into the upstairs, build himself a fancy urban loft and create an art gallery space in the very spot where a few of us midwesterners cut our teeth on rock n roll.

Here's a link to an article about it.

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Post by sab » Thu Jun 20, 2002 9:32 am

Ah yes, the memories. Al Bregante was a royal dick, but he did more for Bland Rapids than I ever dreamed of.

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Post by Sugarcubes Forever » Thu Jun 20, 2002 9:47 am

Anybody remember GR Police Chief Hagarty's "porn sting" at the Reptile? They outfitted an undercover detective with a hidden video camera to document the pornographic acts being committed on bondage night. The police must have been pissed when they watched the tape only to find hours upon hours of scenes of the same stoned goth girls (never naked, always clothed) tickling each other with a big dirty feather and lightly slapping themselves with a riding crop. Either way it landed Al in court.

We shouldn't forget as well, the fact that two summers ago Al was hired to manage The Intersection. He lasted less than six months, running afoul of the owners over god knows what. Now The Intersection is relocating to a renovated warehouse space only a couple of blocks from the Reptile in hopes of attracting the 'Arena' crowd, a code word for The Promis Keepers and their SUV driving offspring who bar hop between the BOB and Flanagans. Bland Rapids finally gets a tast of gentrification.

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Post by Jake » Thu Jun 20, 2002 9:51 am

Nice writing, Scott. I'm actually happy they're not going to try to reopen it as the Reptile House. You can't go home again.

Hey, somebody should try to find out what happened to the sign. Call the new owner, somebody: Larry Zeiser Jr. Pat, don't you know him?

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Post by Mixmaster Shecky » Thu Jun 20, 2002 10:59 am

Ah, the Reptile...who could forget (or remember) skull-tap beer & Jager on Sunday nights for $1.50? Not to mention the groovy bands - my personal favorite was probably Elvis Hitler. I don't think there's been any cooler place in GR since then (although Caffiend was kind of fun).

More importantly, the button-down types are succeeding in sanitizing downtown GR - they also got rid of Purple East. Soon it will be nothing but Starbucks and 7 items of personal flair...hell, it is already.

Just remembered - At the time of the 'porn sting' my roomie was directing local news at 13, and showed me the footage of a newscaster reporting live on the whole affair outside the Reptile. In the background, 2 of the bondage show chicks starting flashing their boobs and making out with each other. Now that's rock and roll.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Mixmaster Shecky on 2002-06-20 11:08 ]</font>

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Post by plapenna » Thu Jun 20, 2002 11:40 am

Yeah, it's sad that it's gone, but one thing is true -- the toilets there were far worse than CBGB's.

Sweet Streetfightin' D, a stolen bottle of El Toro, and sitting up on the shelf above the booths on a night when Blackie Dammet was holding court are a few of the things to miss.

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Post by Embryonic » Thu Jun 20, 2002 12:26 pm

Proptronics chats it up often with the owner of the ex-Reptile House building, who also owns a couple of bars in GR. Maybe we can get him to discover the fate of the Reptile House sign.

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Post by Sugarcubes Forever » Thu Jun 20, 2002 1:13 pm

Purple East, in its current incarnation, is located on Ionia, one block south of Cherry. It's only two blocks from the Reptile House. I actually like it better now. The pipe selection is much better, and you can't complain having an indoor skate park during the winter. Although the atmosphere in the store is now one of clean, X-Games inspired fashion, not the comfortable old soiled feeling one got when sanding in their old building, which was decorated in dayglow paint and beads.

I remember riding my 71 Honda 360 motorcycle to the Reptile on one summer night and thinking that I must have been a real bad ass because I was parking my "bike" right in front of the door. Hilarious.

Prop, you gotta help us find that sign! At least to take a picture, if not liberate it for my own sick collection of local memorabilia.

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Post by D. Phillips » Thu Jun 20, 2002 2:11 pm

Scott, you still have that bike? I'd be interested in talking to you about it.

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Post by Sugarcubes Forever » Thu Jun 20, 2002 3:08 pm

Nope, got rid of it when the clutch went out. Only had 12,000 miles on it too! All original and stock (except tires).

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