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Last Saturday night at about 8:30, Adam Matza got a call from an employee at Squeeze, one of Fort Lauderdale's longest-running alternative music clubs. Earlier this year the club celebrated its ninth anniversary of hosting national bands, performance artists, poetry readings, DJ nights, and art shows. The club had a strong local following, especially on Thursday evenings, when DJ Guy would spin dance music while patrons downed 25-cent well drinks.

The Squeeze employee invited Matza to come down to the club Saturday, because it would be his last chance to do so. Squeeze was about to close its doors. Matza, who once served as the club's promotions manager, made a call to the radio station ZETA (WZTA-FM 94.9), which later made an announcement over the air. Then he headed out the door.

"It wasn't a total surprise," admits Matza, a long-time friend of Jack Kearney, the owner of Squeeze. Kearney had been squabbling with his landlord over the terms of his lease for some time, and things came to a boil recently when another club owner began trying to purchase the property.

Says Kearney, "I decided if I wasn't wanted, I would leave."
But not without a little ceremony. On Saturday, Squeeze was filled to capacity with punks, cross-dressers, rave kids, and fetishists -- the usual crowd -- who had heard through the grapevine that, tonight, "last call" meant last call.

"It was packed," says Peter Giovenco, a welder and artist who was scheduled to exhibit his work there this coming Friday. (It will be exhibited at Chili Pepper instead.) "Everyone was bumming. There's a local crowd that's been going there for five or six years. They've got no place to go now."

When Matza arrived he stood still for a moment at the doorway to the cavernous club that had served so many dollar drafts. "I really took a look around," he says, "and, once again, got a chance to get hit with that Squeeze smell."

Doug Cross, a bartender who has served drinks there since the club first opened its doors, has ended many an evening at Squeeze with his famous falsetto version of "God Bless America." It was always Cross' moment of glory, and he was known to shush anyone who dared to sing along with him. On Saturday he asked all present to join him, and they did.

"It was bittersweet. I made a lot of friends there," Matza muses. "Over the last decade, probably the most significant relationships I had were with women I met at Squeeze. It's a scary thought, but true."

Over the weekend Kearney carted out various items from the club: paintings, sculptures, a lizard made out of chicken wire. Kearney, who has run clubs in Boston, New York, and South Florida (he owned the infamous Candy Store on Fort Lauderdale beach), says he plans to open up a smaller, more intimate venue next. "Squeeze got pretty big near the end, kind of unruly," he says.

Kearney isn't shedding any tears over the demise of Squeeze, but he admits, "It was very sad, walking out of there. It's one of those feelings you have, like when you graduate high school. You're probably moaning through it, but when you look back at it, you'll say, 'It was kind of fun.

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Rafer Guzman

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