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Businesses abruptly close in Springfield

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Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:00 am

Harlow's, an iconic staple of Springfield's nightlife, abruptly closed its doors for business two Saturdays ago, leaving many people wondering why.

Harlow's, located at 637 S. Kimbrough Ave., had a rich history of live local bands, drink specials, food and a laid-back atmosphere that turned many bar-hoppers into devoted regulars. The pub opened its doors in the early ‘80s and continued to serve the campus area until Feb. 4, 2012.

Marc Coy, a local musician and longtime Harlow's patron, has nothing but fond memories that date back to the bar's beginning years.

"I've been going there since Tim Harlow first opened the doors," Coy said. "I've watched it grow from its infancy to what it is now, or was. It wasn't just a place for people to sit on bar stools and get drunk. It was a family place, too."

Speculation has circulated around town that the current smoking ban has caused many bars to lose large amounts of customers. According to Coy, that was not the case at Harlow's.

"A lot of bars have closed down strictly because of this new smoking rule," Coy said. "It has blown a lot of people out of the water. When a band was playing at Harlow's, that place was standing room only. The smoking rule, I don't see that as a big thing for them."

Coy, along with other members of a Facebook group called Beer420, have banded together to create some kind of concert benefit for the displaced employees of Harlow's. Several employees reportedly worked without pay for weeks just to keep the bar afloat.

"They need some kind of compensation. That's why we're trying to organize this benefit," Coy said. "The organization is still up in the air. My opinion is that they'd get several bands to play and make it like the chili cook-off or other major things Springfield does."

2008 Missouri State alum Jim Rae frequented Harlow's and said he is disappointed and bewildered by its sudden closing.

"Harlow's was a legendary music venue for my generation and generations before," Rae said. "Its closing has saddened Springfield musicians and music lovers both. And they had the best ribs in town."

Harlow's current owner Julie Cozort was unable to be reached for comment.

A few miles away from Harlow's sits the green and red shell of a building that was once Ray's Lounge. Known for its affordable drink specials, pool tables and its ever-approachable owner, Ray's served its final crowd in December of 2011.

Raymond Hassen, the proprietor of Ray's Lounge, located at 1221 E. St. Louis St., blames Springfield's recent smoking ban for the depletion of up to 80 percent of his business.

"When the smoking ban hit Springfield, I built a patio. I kind of saw the handwriting on the wall," Hassen said. "Since time began and people were drinking, they were smoking. It's hand in hand. You can't get around it."

Hassen, who ran for city council on several occasions, believes that students from the array of local colleges contribute immensely to the local economy.

"I've listened to college students talk about politics in Springfield. My desire is to increase rapport and cooperation between the city council members and the colleges," Hassen said. "College students contribute greatly to the economic health of area businesses. This should be recognized and respected."

Senior graphic design major Catherine Barron enjoyed her times at Ray's Lounge before it closed.

"I used to meet my friends there on Wednesdays because it was really cheap," Barron said. "They had the best pitcher specials for a while and the pool tables were always fun."

Anyone wishing to check out the Facebook benefit group set up for the former employees of Harlow's, can visit it at http://www.facebook.com/groups/HARLOWS..

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