It was only two weeks ago that I wrote a column about how local indie/underground hangout Roxanne´s on Main was in a state of flux. The Oakland Park-based bar and popular show venue has been under new ownership and management for the past four months and steadily losing the bulk of its clientele along the way. The bar´s new owner, Jimmy Joiner, nixed the venue´s electronic night, canceled the hip-hop night, and axed one of the indie-rock parties as well, all of which used to give the idiot-savant crowd of Broward County a place to call home. In a relatively short time, Roxanne´s went from an underground music refuge to a place where the indie crowd didn´t feel welcome.
If it seemed that negative energy was congregating around the bar, things have now gone from bad to worse. Two Mondays ago, Roxanne´s caught fire and has been shut down indefinitely, apparently a result of arson. Early news reports stated that opossums may have caused an electrical fire by chewing through loose wiring, but Broward County Sheriff´s officials are now probing the idea that the blaze was set intentionally. According to the bar´s former owner, Isaac Alexander, flammable accelerants were found at the scene. It´s too early to say exactly who was behind the blaze, but what´s certain is that Roxanne´s downward spiral has finally come to an end but not the way that people expected.
¨It sucks that it had to happen that way,¨ says Alex Cruz, one of the former hip-hop promoters at Roxanne´s who was recently fired. ¨It sucks that they got rid of the best things that were happening at the bar, and now the place is burned down. I´d rather see the place sit there and rot. That´s how you get revenge. If somebody set it on fire because they didn´t like the new owners, this doesn´t solve anything.¨
When the Sun-Sentinel initially ran the story last week, a bevy of readers left comments on the Sentinel´s website assuming that Joiner was behind the blaze. Business for the bar was decreasing, rent had recently been increased, and Joiner´s insistence that opossums started the fire was unbelievable to anyone with a marginal knowledge of Roxanne´s troubles. Joiner, however, says he´s offended that people are assuming he torched his own bar and maintains his innocence.
¨I´ve been in business for 33 years, and I´ve never had an insurance claim... not a slip and fall, nothing,¨ Joiner says. ¨This really pisses me off. The fact that I would even have to defend myself pisses me off. I didn´t have anything to do with it.¨
Some of the former staff from Roxanne´s don´t know what to make of the situation.
¨I think there´s something fishy going on... absolutely,¨ says Christine Rivera, a bartender at Roxanne´s. ¨A lot of people didn´t like the changes, and maybe that had something to do with it. Nobody knows what´s going on, but the only people who are getting screwed are the bartenders and barbacks. We´re the ones who are out of a job now.¨
Since most of the venue´s popular club nights were canceled, business has been abysmal. I´ve visited the bar twice in the past two weeks to check on its progress, and the place seemed lifeless. So in some regards, it makes sense that people´s initial reactions were that the fire was set for insurance purposes.
Joiner acknowledges that business was on the decline, but he says he believed that the lull in activity was temporary.
¨Sometimes you have to do an amputation of dead meat before the healing can begin,¨ Joiner says. ¨Sure, business was changing, but that doesn´t mean I´d burn down my own bar.¨
Another theory is that disgruntled former patrons took matters into their own hands.
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¨Customers that had been coming in for a long time were getting kicked out lately and asked not to come back,¨ Rivera says. ¨There were a lot of people that were unhappy with the bar, so it´s hard to say.¨
Bar Manager Darrell Adams says that a recent bar fight between a bouncer and a group of skinheads also could be behind the fire. ¨My gut says, somebody was definitely unhappy,¨ Adams says. ¨For somebody to do something like this, it takes a lot of anger.¨
Either way, a venue that surged with momentum is now closed and isn´t planned to reopen anytime soon.
¨This is the kind of shit that makes Fort Lauderdale suck,¨ a frustrated Alexander says. ¨I finally rallied a few people to do something good in this town, and it was literally run into the ground and burned. I´d like to see more club promoters at the grassroots level throwing parties. We need people to get pissed off and get out there and strengthen the culture of this town, but situations like this make me think that I´m done with Broward.¨