Just this week, Native Florida Tap Room and Music Hall owner Kilmo Doome announced that he's selling the venue and skipping town.
He wrote on Facebook: "I have accepted an offer I couldn't refuse and I'm relocating to New Orleans, where music and culinary opportunities have beckoned me for years. I will continue to perform and produce some music events in South Florida." Then he thanked all the great musicians, fans, and lovers of beer who supported his venture.
Kilmo told us that a combination of factors led to the Tap Room's demise. "When I started doing venues," he said, "I really didn't know it would go this long." But after giving it a good try with this latest location in Hollywood, it seemed the hoops the city set up were too high for Kilmo to jump, and the allure of the Big Easy was too strong.
But challenges related to live music spots are nothing new to Kilmo. When he first opened the popular Alligator Alley, he felt he was responding to a void in the local market. As a musician himself, playing with the Shack Daddys, he wanted to set up a club with great sound, a place that treated musicians like humans. A converted pizza place, Alligator Alley was financed by Chief Jim Billie of the Seminole tribe. As a blues venue, it also offered what he calls, "a rootsy, vintage kind of jazz" and eventually popular punk nights brought about by a bartender whose friends packed the place. "They dug the vibe, dug the music... Smoked a lot of cigarettes, drank hand over fist, and played really fast music," Kilmo recollects.
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When another blues bar opened nearby, he felt it "cut the same pie thinner," taking away business from Alligator Alley, which by then was known nationally as a respected live music venue. After it closed, encouraged by the FAT Village Arts District, he opened a venue in Fort Lauderdale. The development was hampered by zoning issues. So he kept it open as Kilmo's Studio and Warehouse; it's not illegal to operate a warehouse, and he ran a sound studio there. Also, as a noted chef, he also had a catering license at the warehouse. But it didn't stay open very long.
Kilmo said that, though it may sound corny, "money doesn't matter that much to me. I just love art." With Native Florida Tap Room and Music Hall, he definitely continued in his legacy of putting the artist first and making sure the sound system was superior. "I really put my lack of money where my mouth is," he joked.
Lured next to Hollywood by both the mayor and the Community Redevelopment Agency, he said, "The mayor wanted to see downtown Hollywood as an arts mecca," citing the city's great location as central to the tricounty area. He said they told him they would take care of a restrictive law that hindered his business from accessing a late-night crowd. A 4 a.m. license was passed, and things were looking good. But then there was dissent, and in the end -- after he'd already set up shop with plans to put a bar out front, a kitchen in, and sliding glass doors opening to the street -- the new rule stated that he had to shut his doors and windows at 10 p.m., even though he could still stay open till 4. Kilmo said he couldn't work with this law. Other businesses in downtown Hollywood were allowed to blast noise all night, but not his.
So the place was already on the market, he dropped the price, and his broker called him with a good offer. He'd already had a long-term connection with New Orleans, having visited and played there since the '90s. As a bass player who'd performed with big acts like Blood, Sweat & Tears in the '80s, there was work for him there. He said of his New Orleans friends, "I've had so many people begging me to play for them for years." It's a place, he noted, where you can be 95 and still be onstage. A friend up there told him, "Everyday life here is way more fun," and Kilmo thought, "You know what, it is!"
Either way, "It just seemed like the time. I did my best to support the scene here. I have to say the artists who played here are great." But part of the problem is that the locals can be, he thinks, lazy in their promotion of their own shows. He's had an open-door policy, he said -- "all you had to do was ask" -- and he'd help you get on the stage or even open his doors any day for a video shoot. His only rule was no cover bands and no classic rock. He worked 18-hour days, five days a week, with a total staff of three. "I'm here for the community," he said. He considers the venture though, "overall, a big success."
And who knows, maybe this won't be the last venue he opens. "I'm going to keep my eye out -- I'm not in a super rush to do it, but for an Alligator Alley there." Like he said in his Facebook message, he'll be back. "I have always been a part of the South Florida scene. My parents live here, as long as they're around, I'll visit." For now, he's going up to New Orleans for six months and will still produce about four events down here each year. "I feel like a college kid. I'm not old. I could play music till the day I die," he declared.
Tonight, the Last Schmaltz features some Hollywood favorites like Shark Valley Sisters, Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers, Charlie Pickett, and Shaved Hamster with tunes by DJ Skidmark. This Sunday is the final show at Native Florida Tap Room and Music Hall. Kilmo's calling it a "super amazing blow out," bringing in a "who's who" in the roots music scene. "We'll go till 4 or 5 in the morning, or till we run out of energy or beer." A fitting finale for a long, good run.
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