The day the music died: PJ’s Pub closes after 6 years in Aggieville


By the time I arrived at PJ’s Pub late Friday night, a large and increasingly rowdy crowd had already gathered outside. The crowd members, many of whom were regulars at PJ’s for years, came to see the final two nights of live music at the bar, which had provided the Manhattan music scene a home since the venue opened in 2003.

This weekend, PJ’s hosted two nights of BYOB concerts, which featured performances from a dozen acts, before closing its doors for the last time Saturday night. I pushed my way through the crowd of smokers toward the back door, where I was greeted with a hug by Dot Tucker, the bar’s manager, who was dancing in the doorway with a beer in her hand.

PJ’s closing came as little surprise to the 200 or more people who attended the concerts. The bar’s first indication that it might be forced to shut down came early this summer when it attempted to renew its lease. PJ’s landlord, McCullough Development, told the bar that if it renewed its lease, the rent would increase by 250 percent.

The bar contested this increase, citing its existing lease, which stated rent could not be increased by an amount greater than the property tax on the building. Months later, the issue was still unresolved, and PJ’s had been operating without a lease since August. McCullough Development declined to comment.

Several weeks ago the bar lost its liquor license because of a state law requiring establishments to have a nine-month lease to have a liquor license. The bar obtained a temporary liquor permit, allowing it to serve beer. The permit expired Thursday, and the bar decided that renewing it would not be profitable, choosing to close after a final weekend of live music.

Saturday night, I sat down with Dot and her son Jamie Tucker, the bar’s owner, for a final interview. I first met Dot a month and a half ago when PJ’s announced it might be forced to close. Since then, I interviewed Dot four or five times.

Throughout my conversations with Dot, she always remained hopeful and determined to keep PJ’s open. On the bar’s final night, she fought back tears as she explained her feelings about losing the bar.

“I’ve probably never been this sad, even when my mother died, I wasn’t this sad,” Dot said, as she wiped tears from her eyes. “This is my life, I feel like they’re killing one of my children … [PJ’s closing] is breaking my heart. This was Jamie’s dream, and it’s my dream … and it’s about the music.”

Jamie said he decided to open PJ’s because Manhattan’s music scene was virtually nonexistent at the time. He said it was his dream and mission to create a place that could be a home to the town’s music scene and enable it to grow.

“[We opened PJ’s] 100 percent for the music,” Jamie said. “When I opened this place you could see live music maybe twice a month in this town.”

He said one of PJ’s main goals during its six years in business was to give bands an opportunity to play somewhere to start their careers. Jamie said he was concerned that with PJ’s closing, new bands would have an extremely difficult time breaking into the town’s music scene.

“This is the only place that allows new bands to play, and if you look at the bands playing in this town, they all started here,” Jamie said.

Of the dozen acts that played at the bar this weekend, almost all of them played their first shows at PJ’s. Some of the acts, especially a metal band like Terror Tractor, said they were concerned it will be difficult for them to find other venues to play. Many of the acts began their sets by relating the importance of the bar to their careers.

“This was the first place I ever played,” said Josh Collinsworth at the beginning of his acoustic set Saturday night. “Every band I’ve ever been in has played at PJ’s. We’re just here to honor a legend.”

The effects of PJ’s closing on the future of Manhattan’s music scene was a topic of discussion among fans. Aaron Frondorf, junior in art, said he felt Manhattan was losing a business important to the town’s culture.

“It’s messed up that somebody who pours their entire heart and soul into something, like Dot and Jamie [did], and it’s being put to a stop because someone sees a dollar sign,” said Roger “Vegas” Nixon, PJ’s doorman. “The community’s going to get a piece of their heart taken out so a dollar bill can be filled in.”