When Patricia “Pat” Hanych—the Pat of Pat’s In The Flats, namesake of the notorious Cleveland, Ohio dive bar and underground music venue—died last month, on June, 22, 2022, the world lost a rock ‘n roll icon. An unlikely one, as Pat looked a lot more like your average grandma than some leather-clad badass.
When Pat passed, I was wrapping a huge work project here in L.A. and didn’t get to memorialize her properly. Event-throwing skills I learned from Pat (and others in Cleveland) have led to a career in media production. I’m very grateful to Pat for that. I also probably lost more braincells in late night drinking escapades at her bar so… there’s that too. I’m a little slow.
I saw some wonderful tributes online that I want to acknowledge. Here’s one from Shawn Mishak in Scene dated June 14, 2022, that really captures Pat’s story—why we love her, as well as everything she did for underground music and Cleveland musicians in particular:
Patricia Hanych, the beloved owner of Pat’s in the Flats, passed away Sunday morning at the age of 82 following a short battle with cancer.
Booking agent, confidant, bartender, pseudo-grandmother/aunt/mother of countless Cleveland musicians, Hanych closed the business, which had been in the family for more than 60 years, in 2018.
Her father, William Hanych, first purchased the property in 1945 when he opened Pickles. It became Anne’s Lunch in 1951, named after Hanych’s mother, and later Pat’s.
Patricia, who worked at the family business since she was in high school, began booking live music in 1987, and, before long, Pat’s became known as a place where aspiring musicians could get a gig, even with little experience.
Pat was always willing to give the band a shot and didn’t fuss a lot about draw and ‘meat in the seats’ conversations about presale and door count. The deal was simple: She’d pull a calendar from behind the bar, you’d pick a date, the bands took and kept the door and she did the bar.
“An’ no fighting!” she would say.
Hopefully Pat’s wake was a rockin’ and rollin’ party for the ages. I’m sorry I missed it but Pat, hard worker that she was, hopefully would have understood.
This post is my humble tribute to Pat’s in the Flats and Pat—who always took my calls, always listened to my pitches and never said no to some pretty far-fucking-out-there concert bills. Pat was always present with words of support for all. God bless ya.
How I met Pat
Pat’s in the Flats was a spot I heard about while I was still in my original hometown of Erie, PA. Some friends of friends’ punk band (My 3 Scum perhaps?) played there in the late 1980s. So I heard about Pat’s long before I heard about more trendy clubs like Peabody’s DownUnder or The Phantasy. Certainly before I ever encountered the Euclid Tavern, which was a very pivotal venue in my musical development.
When I moved to Cleveland in 1990, I initially had no car and so Pat’s in the Flats was out of reach. The venue remained mythical. I couldn’t easily take a bus or a Rapid there—or get back home at 2am. Taxis had trouble finding the joint, hidden as it was below what felt like three layers of highway overpasses. So I had no way of attending (not to mention I was underage.)
I finally got to go to the legendary Pat’s In The Flats for an event called “Battle of the Worst Bands” in 1992. (I believe night one was at the Grog Shop. Or perhaps that was a later installment of this event?)
Finally of-age, I immediately partook of Pat’s delightful selection of dirt-cheap domestic bottled beers—and these little fish sandwiches she heated up in the back somewhere. Wow! Those sandwiches knocked me out. Totally weird bar food, but also right up my alley. I used to make fishstick and white bread sandwiches at home when I was a latchkey kid in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Pat later told me later she originated the finger food as well as the bowls of crackers, etc. that she would sit on the bar because she was afraid people were driving home “too drunk.” Implication being that a “little drunk” was alright. Probably unavoidable after a night at Pat’s in the Flats. Drunk driving harm-reduction talk is taboo nowadays (don’t drink and drive, period!) but this was a different era. And Pat was a woman who pulled no punches. Very much a Clevelander in that regard. Pat saw a need and filled it. Movin’ on…
Back to “Battle of the Worst Bands”: it was a fearsome and bewildering spectacle of onedownmanship. At their best (worst?), the bands were shining examples of politically incorrect Dada nonsense. At their worst (best!), totally embarrassing.
I remember this group called ‘Shit The Bed’ taking a musical, uh, dump on the stage. Pat paused and watched the band for a moment. Their antics were cringeworthy but she showed no emotion—just a faint smile. Wow. This woman’s tolerance for chicanery was impressive, I remember thinking. Little did I know but she had already seen it all at that point.
But in the Grunge era, when even major venues began embracing instrument-smashers and anarchic political punk, Pat’s anything-goes attitude maybe began to seem a little less revolutionary. More of a refuge for the awful bands who couldn’t make it elsewhere. For me and my crew, it was more of a drinking destination. And, man, did we drink.
A new dawn
There seemed to be new blood coursing though Pat’s In The Flats starting in the late 1990s around ’97 or so. Maybe it was earlier, I can’t remember.
Doug Niemczura—Euclid Tavern bartender, You Would If You Loved Me performer, U.S. Rocker writer and friend—plus his buddy Mark Leddy—musician and later on co-owner of the Beachland—began booking there and, working closely with Pat, made Pat’s In The Flats a real destination for the nascent Garage Rock revival scene.
Soon bands from Detroit to Nashville and beyond were streaming into Pat’s on a weekly basis. Look at this U.S. Rocker ad from Saturday, July 18, 1998 featuring an unknown band called The White Stripes in what must have been one of their earliest appearances outside of Detroit. Jack and Meg White had debuted the band just ten months prior.
Suddenly Pat’s In The Flats was the finger on the pulse of a whole new scene. Here are soon-to-be superstar Garage Rock bills from The Rocker:
These bands loved Pat’s In The Flats and Pat because this was a person and a venue that radiated authenticity, which the groups craved. It’s no wonder a successful symbiosis was achieved. Some of the bands, like The White Stripes, and The Black Keys became international superstars. It was a pretty amazing transformation—and an overdue blast of success for Pat Hanych. Did it change how she did what she did? Heck no! She was still making change, picking up empties and chugging along as usual.
One last drink
As the Garage Rock bands became more successful around Y2K, the bands could no longer hold court at Pat’s. First they went with Mark Leddy to the Beachland Ballroom (which he opened with Cindy Barber, the former editor of the Free Times, in March 2000). But quickly the big bands were playing theaters and, by the early Oughties, arenas. So what happened to Pat’s In The Flats?
I left Cleveland for L.A. in October 2002, so I don’t have the full picture. But I do know that in the wake of Punk / D.I.Y. space Speak In Tongues‘ sudden closure at the end of 2001, Pat’s once again became the haven for left-of-center outcasts.
These Speak In Tongues kids—now fully-legal adults—were pushed out of SIT’s BYOB nest and into the world of buying beers, you know, from bars like regular civilians. Who did they turn to? Pat’s In The Flats of course. I mean, when you squinted your eyes, and took a deep inhale, the squalor was basically equivalent.
That’s where I came into the equation. On my way out of town in 2002 I booked a string of Pat’s shows featuring total weirdos (and inspiring artists) like My Name Is Rar-Rar, Misty Martinez, Oblongata, Whales, Plus Ultra and more.
I also saw some great Speak In Tongues people play there—bands like The Cassettes, Coffinberry, The Foreign Exchange Students, Calvin & The Bitches, Proletarian Art Threat, The New Lou Reeds… all incredible, cutting-edge groups charting out the places music would go post 9/11.
It was hard to leave Pat’s In The Flats—my last connection to ‘Old Cleveland,’ the mythical place I dreamed about. Now I had California dreams. I remember I had a beer at Pat’s on the night before I left town. I said bye to Pat. I don’t think that she thought that I’d be gone for good.
I went back to visit her once after I moved to L.A. The weird old house that the bar grew out of like some sort of fungus, geez, it looked like it had melted. The place was like a wobbly witch hut now. Off-kilter and deflated-looking. Yikes.
People sentimentalize dive bars. Pat’s In The Flats took a real dive—the place physically devolved into a pretty frightening pile of sticks.
My impression of Pat’s In The Flats’ interior at that time, circa 2010, was that it had become dingier, and the patrons were living in a hall of mirrors—reflections of madness all around. Drunken babbling. Complaining about complaining. Re-enacting drunken rituals from times long gone. Not judging here. I’m a fully-accredited alcomaholic, so the abject scene didn’t stop me from acting a fool and joining in. Still, it was kinda depressing even for an inveterate club lizard like me. Not quite how I remembered things.
But who’s to say? Pat was keeping things going at all costs, rattling around the cozy room, still dispensing beers with a cheerful word. A bright spot in a dim world.
It was then that I understood that Pat is perhaps miscast as a motherly or grandmotherly figure. She wasn’t trying to be my grandmother—or yours either. Not really.
Pat was one of us. An event-thrower and party person who had gotten older, but was still getting the job done as smoothly as possible (“No fighting!”) while having the maximum amount of fun, and minimal pretensions. And then moving on, because you have to. Another night, another show, another round. Knowing that folks love and respect and even depend on you to keep it moving.
I sure depended on you, Pat Hanych. Thanks for hosting. Thanks for the many, many wonderful nights out on the rock ‘n roll side of town.
The U.S. Rocker archival photos
The first batch below are by the incredible photographer, Karen Novak, who chronicled the Euclid Tavern and Grog Shop bands so well. When Karen snapped pics at Pat’s, we at U.S. Rocker begged her for copies, which is how I have them in my archive.
The Garage Rock era brought in Jay Brown, who’s a superstar to me for his artistically-inspired documentarian approach to capturing all the cool bands. His photos are after Karen’s below.
If I was in a rock group during the 1990s, and Jay didn’t show up to shoot me, I’d be bummed.
I don’t own the rights to the images below. Jay’s photos, like Karen’s, were originally meant for U.S. Rocker. Most of them never saw publication because newsprint publishing was expensive for us. If you publish a tabloid and your page count is not divisible by four, that means you have to add or subtract pages. For a shoestring publication like U.S. Rocker, you can imagine which direction we most often found ourselves going in.
Also—little known fact—we had to pay a fee for each photo to be “screened” (ie., made printable on the antiquated web press). So most of Karen and Jay’s pics ended up being filed. Until now.
I’ve tried my best to the image dates with what was published in U.S. Rocker, and relied on Jay’s methodical labelling on the back of his photos (super smart move) for the rest.
The color photos at the end are mine and document my final hurrah at Pat’s. Click through and read full descriptions of each show. Enjoy the memories. And RIP Pat Hanych.
5/23/98: Geraldine, The Dirtbombs & ’68 Comeback
Geraldine were a ripping, uncategorizable band from the post-Grunge time period that bridged Psych and Post-Punk, and heralded the great Garage Rock revival that was about to roll into Pat’s In The Flats in 1998.
Date unknown, 1998: Satan’s Satellites
5/29/98: Andre Williams
6/6/98: Barb & Caroline Eckles birthday party
8/8/98: The Tellers & Rocket 455
8/14/98: Step Sister, Downside Special & Cash Money
Erica Washburn writes in U.S. Rocker:
Right off the bat, [Tom] Dark’s ‘I’m the man’ attitude and intense glare clued me in that they had quite a performance in store. Like a cyclops with his eye on the small crowd, Dark led Step Sister with the rockin’ rasp vital to the punk rawk attack. The band took on even greater power as Dark flipped onto the barren floor…
My Name Is Rar-Rar has been to paradise…
Much like the Roadhouse from Twin Peaks, Pat’s In The Flats was nestled deep in the darkness—a gateway to the liminal world (in this case the post-industrial decay of the dismal Cuyahoga River basin)—illuminated by only a single working neon beer sign in the window, drenched in mystery.
The Chargers showed off a retooled line-up at Pat’s and dared listeners to dig their new look:
In the early ’00s, the band shed the rudimentary (but economical and great) garage rock thing and became a much more sophisticated ensemble, mainly due to the addition of Matt Fish on drums.
Misty Martinez shocked and awed—and then got up and left:
No one had never seen anything like this—multiple choreographed costume changes! female-powered indie sleaze! […] Truth be told, this show knocked me out of the concert promotion game for awhile…
It was the dawn of Electroclash, and once again Pat was way ahead of the curve:
I was missing the inclusive, freaky “girls ‘n gays” party vibe of my early Cleveland experience at Cleveland Institute of Art. As much as Rock music is my ethos, I was feeling suffocated by the gnarly dude-wall of folded arms at every fucking show by this point. Enough! I needed to live. And dance…
When summer rolled around, and being indoors became too oppressive, Pat let us make hellacious noise outdoors too:
Pat’s In The Flats’ backyard was pretty magical this evening, especially when Brian Straw, Ted Flynn and Rob Sirovica took the stage with an unusually rock-styled (though thoroughly noise-informed) performance that one would not normally expect from these improvisational, experimental musicians…
And make sure to check out these links: