Owner plans to reopen Stillwater

When the recession rocked Ashland last year, locals began to balk at paying $5 to see an unfamiliar band.

Left struggling was Stillwater, a bar at 1951 Ashland St. that strove to showcase live music every night.

"I think the difficult economy turned it into a situation where if you have an unknown band that comes through and plays a show that costs five bucks, people don't really have five bucks to spend," owner Christopher Moeschl said Monday.

"So I'm reassessing what the model is."

The bar was suspended from operating from Jan. 2 to Feb. 2 in a settlement with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission over an insurance lapse. It remains shuttered.

However, Moeschl intends to reopen the venue, after making some changes to the business model, he said. A date for the reopening has not yet been set, he said.

"We're using this as a time to asses what we were doing and make some changes at the club," he said. "The goal is to reopen."

Moeschl opened the bar in August 2008, as the recession was beginning to batter the region.

After shelling out about $50,000 in improvements to the building to get it up to city code, he has spent the last two years trying to catch up financially, he said.

"I've been trying to recuperate from that since the beginning," he said.

He is taking this time to figure out how to make the business successful, he said.

Moeschl was cited by the OLCC for failing to obtain liquor liability insurance of at least $300,000. The Stillwater case originated in April 2009 and resulted in a negotiated settlement that required Moeschl to close down his business for a month after he declined to pay the $4,950 fine, said OLCC Inspector Jon Rhodes.

Moeschl, who grew up in Ashland, said he hasn't made any definite decisions about how to change the business, but he has several ideas.

He is considering allowing only patrons who are 21 and older, as the OLCC has recommended, he said. Previously, minors were allowed in the venue until 10 p.m.

Also, Moeschl is mulling changing the rotation of musical acts, perhaps by enlisting more local bands and fewer avant-garde touring acts.

The club became known as one of the only places in Ashland where locals could hear a broad range of music, from heavy metal to bluegrass.

"Having a different genre of music every night or a different band every night doesn't necessarily work," he said. "So I don't know if there will be as much of that.

"The money that's generated from that music goes to the bands, and then we need to make sure we can stay afloat," he said.

Rumors have circulated in the last month that the bar had closed for good, but Moeschl said his plan is to reopen.

On the Stillwater Web site, www.stillwaterashland.com, a message on Monday read, "R.I.P. Thank you to all our patrons that supported our efforts in presenting exceptional talent and extraordinary live music to our community."

Moeschl said he was unaware of the message on the site. Someone else with access to the site must have posted the message, but he didn't know who, he said.

"I would never put something like that up," he said. "If I have to go down that road, I have to go down that road, but that's not my goal."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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