Memories of Lemmons: St. Louisans Recall Their Favorite South Side Dive Bar

Categories: Local History

lemmons_legacy_1.jpg
Lemmons leaves a long legacy behind.

by Joseph Hess and Mabel Suen

"Like anything, there are ups and downs. When there are more downs, it's time to get out. I'm just exhausted," says Michael Gross, former owner of Lemmons, beloved south-city spot for punk rock and pizza. The dive bar closed last week to the surprise, and dismay, of many.

Throughout the course of twelve years, Lemmons was carried on the back of its bartenders, bookers and local bands. Though the spot served well enough as an off-kilter sports bar, its real identity came from live music.

See also: Lemmons to Close, Owner Says "The Real Problem...Is Me"

"If we've got alternative music, it's not a terrific blend with a sports-bar crowd," Gross explains. "Separate the two and it does pretty well."

With this in mind, Lemmons opened in early 2002 as a three-story space. The top floor hosted private parties while the main floor functioned as a bar. But the real fun happened in the building's smoky basement. Early shows were booked by CaveofswordS' Sunyatta McDermott, who brought in an eclectic mix -- a practice that would stand the test of time.

"I would have put all Journey and Kansas cover bands in there, and it would have been just me and three of my drunk buddies in the crowd," Gross explains with a laugh. "What I decided to do, in my moment of sanity, was let people with good music taste go ahead and do the booking."

Roughly six months in, the St. Louis fire marshal axed the basement gigs and, for a brief time, Lemmons tried to operate without a musical component. This experiment didn't last -- for Gross and his staff, the lack of a soundtrack took the soul out of the bar. Employees built a stage for the main floor and merged the concert crowd with the barflies -- for better and for worse.

Local bookers like Brian Fleschute, Daren Gratton and the late Jamie Foehner were just a few key names at the heart of Lemmons' music side. Through their work, many young acts had a spot to play their first show. Touring bands from out of state (and some from abroad) were brought in every week and livened up the dive with rock, metal, indie, folk and, most commonly, punk music.

Read on for an oral history on music at Lemmons.


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
12 comments
Tracy A. Fortenberry
Tracy A. Fortenberry

We use to be regullars going weekly for trivia. Not sure why we stopped but things happen, life happens, get older so you cannot make it out as much. My favorite story thought was in 2006. We went there to celebrate my birthday in October which if you remember, the Cards were in the playoffs and of course went on to win the World Series. We had an extremely large number of friends there and it was the night Yadi hit THE homer and I have never seen a place come so alive!!! It was fantastic. Strangers and friends all hugging one another. We were going to the World Series!! It was a fantastic birthday! So I guess you could say when we went to Lemmons we always had fun and it just seemed like everyone was friends when you went in there.

Deb Woods
Deb Woods

Yeah that I ever even went there once. End of horror story...

Joshua Lewis
Joshua Lewis

Anytime I'm at a place with shitty water strained dropped ceiling, I don't remember anything from the previous bar through waking up.

Al-ex Huck
Al-ex Huck

My favorite memory has to be the one time a guy punched me in the face for absolutely no reason and the "security" let him leave before the cops got there because he was their friend. I am so glad this piece of shit is closing.

Linsey Estes
Linsey Estes

My gay friend getting bullied and pushed around by a bunch of assholes before we could even get a drink

Micah Bounds
Micah Bounds

My memories are definitely tied to HoZ. But came there a few times otherwise just to meet up with friends, get awesome pizza and have a few drinks. The Halloween show we'll always top the list though

Kristina Cheeseman
Kristina Cheeseman

hungry, hungry hippies, going upstairs to smoke because it was too cold to go outside. Denny being a sweetheart, countless shows....

John Paul Wood
John Paul Wood

Handful of Zygotes. Nothing beat a Sunday evening eating great pizza, cheap drinks, and watching Jake Russell and Micah Bounds go crazy on stage.

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...