The Joli Rouge closes its doors

The Joli Rouge — a popular hangout for punks, artists, musicians, anarchists, the goth crowd and many others — has closed its doors for the last time.

Many a punk show, drag show, fashion show and even fetish freak show was held within that cavernous black-and-red, two-story bar on College Street in downtown Asheville, which opened in 2005. Goths, rocking knee-high boots and lace, would swap clothes there. Pinball players would get sucked into alternate pinball universes until they ran out of quarters. Fire-spinners would mesmerize people in the courtyard as they artfully twirled their blazing poi. On slow afternoons, regulars would sit at the bar, sipping gin-and-tonics and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes while entertaining one another with jokes.

On the busy nights, if there was a popular band in town or a benefit concert, the crowds swarmed in and consumed quantities of whiskey and PBR. They came in rowdy and chattering droves, wearing boots and suspenders, taped-together glasses, wildly colored hair, dredlocks, tattoos, velvet, sleek black shirts and tight-fitting pants. (Once, I saw a girl there cuddling a pet fox.) Another time, at an art opening, a smiling host went around presenting a tray full of fancy crackers and an open container of cat food.

A pirate flag hung above the downstairs bar. And alas, the joint encountered some rough waters, and the bar served its final shot of whiskey this past weekend.

— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor


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26 thoughts on “The Joli Rouge closes its doors

  1. David Forbes

    Some of the best drinks in town, a full library and very memorable times.

    It will be sorely missed.

  2. A blow to counter-culture Asheville.
    She’ll be missed – best bartenders in town.

    May she be replaced with something equally as creative and excepting.

  3. Zigopolis

    Rebecca thanks for writing this up, I’ll definitely miss the Joli Rouge. The best drinks in town and some marvelous people, no one ever gave me a strange look when I was there, and I’m pretty strange looking.

  4. From California

    I had one of my most splendid Halloweens there back in 2005…sigh. Remember the hunter wearing a deer’s head and holding a bleeding man’s head in his grip? Or, how about all the HOT pirates? The girl with the whips, the one with the _ips and the all the others? Oh my gosh, I was a bumble bee. It was great! May Asheville open another door since this one has closed. RIP

  5. Daniel

    One of the owners is a friend, and I’m very sad to see it close. It was a wonderful place, and I always felt welcome there, even though I’m not punk/goth/artist; being a big old nerd was enough. My best wishes to the bartenders (a wonderful group) and to my friend.

  6. travelah

    Ok .. if the demand is there, someone will open up another place. If not they wont.

  7. JTandy

    My favorite bar . . . best drinks, bar tenders and atmosphere in town . . . we’ll miss ya Rouge

  8. f alonso

    The Joli attracted a bunch of lemmings…clones…wanna-be goths. unimaginative and predictable people…

    Good bye Joli and all the idiots that used to hang out there.

  9. jen

    “I hope the building goes condo.” – quote from above. will probably turn into a sports bar or office. we certainly don’t need another eating joint. I will miss Joli Rouge mostly because it was somewhere different to go than the usual dive bars and indie-rock places. The shows and entertainment had definitely fallen into a dark hole of doom as of recent months, but the atmosphere was always inviting and visually more appealing than most other bars in Asheville.

    “attracted a bunch of lemmings..clones..wanna-be goths”..- quoted from above.
    Asheville is full of lemmings of all sorts. It is not something that is isolated to one bar or area.
    I just think of Curtis who almost died keeping Joli Rouge safe for others, Jacob who always smiled and made the best drinks in town, Brown’s dog who greeted everyone that came in, and the nights dancing to dj’s play and watching fire shows in the courtyard. Definitely will be missed by some of us and that is all that matters.

  10. janeW

    “The Joli attracted a bunch of lemmings…clones…wanna-be goths. unimaginative and predictable people…
    Good bye Joli and all the idiots that used to hang out there.” —f alonso

    wow..high school must not have been far behind for you. sorry you had to suffer.

  11. Daniel

    Strangely, what attracted me to the place (besides being friends with some of the bartenders and one of the owners) was that you DIDN’T have to be part of the subculture to be welcomed there. I could go there straight from work in my button-down, and be the only person at the bar without a face piercing, and feel at home. It’s a little weird that people feel such hostility toward the subculture; it bespeaks an ignorance about the folks there, in my opinion.

  12. jen

    Daniel, well spoken. Do not see what all the fuss is about, it was a nice place. Though, hostility is usually a sign of fear and misunderstanding more than anything else.

  13. Agreed, Daniel. I didn’t know anyone who worked at the Rouge, yet my painfully whitebread self was always greeted with a hearty hello and smile from the bartenders, and I met some fantastically friendly people from all walks of life there. I loved having a bar where you could feel show up by yourself and plop down on a sofa with a book, or bring friends regardless of which mold they fit into.

  14. This was sad news… I loved the atmosphere and saw some great shows there.

    Just a word of warning to everyone that support (or say that they support) local businesses. In these unsure economic times, I’m afraid that we will see many other Asheville institutions close up, even ones that you think are doing well. Local businesses need your help more than ever so keep that in mind.

  15. Nick S

    What Daniel and others said: JR welcomed you regardless of how you looked, what you drank, which music you liked. It’ll be very much missed. There’s nowhere downtown I’d now trust to mix me a drink.

    I’m sure that there’ll be people knocking back Miller Lite in Generic Sports Bar and thinking themselves oh so superior to those durned hipsters. Funny how oneupmanship works.

    (And yeah, I saw the pet fennec fox too, and petted its big lugs.)

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