Decatur Lounge closes; locals to buy WRNI

By IAN DONNIS  |  March 28, 2007

For those of us too late for the fabled and long-gone Leo’s, the Decatur Lounge on Providence’s West Side was our own little slice of nirvana: an unprepossessing and multi-faceted (bar/community center/kickball hotspot/pool hall) home away from home, a cozy place where it was easy to find friends and good cheer.
Now, the Decatur is gone, a victim of a simmering dispute between landlord Jon Ozbek and barkeep Joann Seddon, and it’s destined to join the pantheon of beloved watering holes that have passed from this bash.
Preparing for the bar’s final night on Wednesday, Seddon preferred to focus on the bright side after more than five years of operation in Luongo Square. “It’s just a building — we’re a community,” she says. “A lot of positive things happened [during the Decatur’s tenure]. We’re going to reopen.” The nightlife veteran takes pride in aptly describing her clientele as the most diverse crowd she’s seen, and how “everyone got along,” forging a tight-knit connection in the process. After taking some time off and visiting New Orleans, Seddon says, she plans to pursue another bar at some point in the future.
Last week, when the news broke that the Decatur was facing eviction, rumors swirled about the possible reasons. Ozbek, who possesses a small real estate empire informally known as “Ozbekistan,” didn’t return a call seeking comment at the time, and his listed Providence phone number has since been disconnected.

On the brighter side, the group of Rhode Islanders who helped to bring public radio to the state in 1998 are planning to buy WRNI (1290 AM), raising the possibility of a more robust local presence.
In a statement released after the Phoenix broke news of the sale last week, Boston University-based WBUR announced that the local boosters, known as Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR), will pay $2 million over a 10-year period to acquire WRNI. RIPR will also buy a Narragansett-based FM station, filling a severe need by giving WRNI significantly better coverage through most of southern Rhode Island.
While WBUR says it invested $3.6 million in WRNI, the local station’s presence was dramatically scaled back after 9-11, and the Boston-based operation tried to sell WRNI’s license in 2005, backtracking only after a public outcry. Things have improved since, with the hiring of general manager Joe O’Connor and reporter Nancy Cook, and the continued presence of news stalwart Mark Degon, yet the station has yet to regain the strength of its previous bigger staff.
It’s not cheap to operate a high-quality radio station. At the very least, though, this sale ties WRNI’s potential to the willingness of Rhode Islanders to support it, rather than the sometimes-capricious whims of an out-of-town entity.

On the Web
Some material in this story was published March 22 and 23 at:

  Topics: This Just In , Politics, Media, Domestic Policy,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS