It was billed as a closing, but it was more like an opening. Last night, jazz fans crowded every corner of Harold's Rogue and Jar, an intimate club that has been a hangout for local musicians and aficionados for six years.
The fireplace blazed in the club's listening portion -- and the 55-seat area with the feel of a living room, throbbed with music.The bandstand was a forum for musicians jamming modern jazz tunes.
Every table and chair was occupied. People standing in the cramped aisles strained their necks for a glimpse of the musicians or to hear a phrase or two.
Now the Rogue and Jar is closing, because of an expired lease. But no one was crying in his beer.
Harold Kaufman, the psychiatrist who bought the club in 1973 so that he could have a place to play piano and promote jazz, says, "I had mixed feelings. At a personal level, it will be a loss.
"On the other hand, it can be seen as a beginning. This place is too small. Look at it tonight. We're doing a land-office business. If I could do it all over again, I would get a larger bar.
"As a psychiatrist, bars like this serve a need for lonely people who don't have living rooms of their own."
Many seem to agree with him. "Where are we going next weekend," asked a woman at the bar, "now that this place is closing?I've been coming here for three years."
St. Matthew's cathedral, which owns the building housing the Rogue and Jar and operates a singles club above the club, reportedly refused to renew the lease because of plans to raze the block and build a mid-rise office building.
A meeting-place for local and visiting musicians, the club has featured such Washington performers as Marshall Hawkins, Reuben Brown, Buck Hill and Andrew White, as well as out-of-towners Zoot Sims, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, David Murray, and Tommy Flanigan.
Before Kaufman bought the club, it had been primarily an outlet for local folk music, but quickly changed to become one of the city's outstanding jazz emporiums.
Several people refused to accept the closing. Dotty Dodgion, a drummer and former booking agent for the club, said, "I cannot think of it as the final stroke. Fate must have something in store for us. I'm too much of an optimist. Instead of it being the end of an era, I think it's the beginning."
Dodgion pointed out that Columbia Station is about to begin booking jazz one night a week.
Some people shook their heads over the closing of another jazz club, a common occurence in this city "It's a sad time," lamented painter Arthur Beatty, taking another drink of a screwdriver. "We [jazz fans] keep letting this happen."
But Kaufman could see a phoenix rising from the ashes. Pushing his way through a cluster of people, he said, "If there's this much need [for jazz], the vacuum will be filled. Someone will open a club."