‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
The first time I went to The Loop in Windsor, Ontario, Canada was in 2006. It might have been March 21st, 2006. The only reason I would know the date was because of this photo:
If you’re wondering, I wasn’t trying to be stylish with the hockey hair. It was just cheaper than monthly haircuts.
I didn’t care too much for the bar back then, though I felt it played the better music in Windsor. My friends at the time preferred chill places like Room with a Cue (now Venue) or Papa Cheneys (now Whisky River) or just hitting up The Bridge Tavern because it was just down the street from their house (still The Bridge and has been closed for years). When those friends left, I met up with new friends and Loop was an occasional spot. I think it was sometime in 2007 when I was waiting in line to get a drink (back when Windsor bars were always packed, Loop was a target spot due to having a huge dance floor, a huge bar and a side beer bar near the women’s washroom. Even people who didn’t care for the atmosphere would go because they knew there was a better chance getting served than other places), a girl in front of me asked if I wanted to just have her drink. Pretty much broke and not ready to turn down a free drink I accepted. I asked what it was.
“It’s called a double mud. I could only get that far with it.”
I drank some of the double mud and it was absolutely disgusting. I was a rye and coke guy back then and anything stronger than a double was going to make me Buckley’s face. But I finished it. Not because I liked it, but because a friend of mine convinced me to do a shot and it ended up being a prairie fire. I don’t recall much else.
This is the story of my 20s and alcohol. There’s a lot of black outs.
Between 2006 and 2013 I only missed one Halloween at the Loop. Here’s me as a Kissing Booth:
Some of my best memories were those Halloweens. Same to my birthdays. There were a few times I went from Kingston to Windsor, an eight hour trip. I took a bus from Kingston to Toronto and then a train to Windsor, just to goto the Loop for the weekend. When I moved back to Chatham, I didn’t have to pay rent taking care of my mom in her apartment, but I didn’t see much money out of it because every weekend I was back in Windsor for the Loop. I used to hit up Palace Cinema (gone, see a pattern?) to watch a movie while all of my friends were still at work or not going out yet and once 11PM rolled around, walk into the Loop alone. My friends wouldn’t be far behind arriving.
The Loop was the bar of choice for my friends too, so it didn’t take much convincing to go there every Saturday. And most Saturdays in my 20s were spent at the Loop. The DJ’s, in a booth shaped like a UFO would play the best mix of 80s, 90s, current music and music you have never heard before. If they liked you enough they would play requests. On one of my birthdays I convinced Amanda to play “Die Tonight Live Forever” by Innerpartysystem and it’s still one of my top birthday moments. The music was great. The people were great. Rarely did a fight break out at the Loop or a bouncer be a prick. It was a wonderland. It made no sense to go anywhere else in Windsor. Voodoo (now closed) was a dive. Sin (now closed) was a dive. Any new bars that showed up were sure to bring similar crowds. Going to the Loop was a ritual.
So was drinking double/pure muds.
I never really thought of myself as an alcoholic. To this day I drink maybe once a week. But at the Loop, I could get blackout drunk on $40 and three muds ($5 cover, $9 muds, $1 tip, $5 left in my wallet every morning). And I did. Every Saturday. It was rare for a Saturday not to go by for me to check the time around 12:30 and then wake up in my bed. Sometimes my bed. Sometimes not my bed. Sometimes with someone. Sometimes with a bag of chips smushed into onion dip. Sometimes with a shwarma. There was one time I came down to Windsor for Halloween in 2011, one of the times I came from Kingston. I thought my friend was going to let me crash at his place but I stayed at Loop while they left early. I ended up trying to sleep on the floor of the entrance of the apartment because they wouldn’t answer. Some old lady yelled at me so I had to wake up and find somewhere else to go until I either sobered up or the train station opened. Mind you, I was dressed as Freakazoid and it was late October, so it was pretty cold. Luckily the train station opened.
Point is, I honestly went quite a while blacking out at the Loop every Saturday before realizing I had a drinking problem and needed to stop hitting the double muds so hard. I wasn’t an alcoholic in the classic, “need a drink” but there’s probably some irreparable damage done to my brain cells. It kind of disappoints me that none of my friends carried around a camcorder. They remember me being drunk back then far better than I do.
I met a lot of great people and danced to a lot of great songs. I knew the owner Jay and shook his hand every time I saw him. He’d make my drinks the best way because he invented them (he also invented the Pure Mud, which was a clear version of the poison). It’s a bit of a blur (it’s always a blur) but around 2013, the bar just started changing. Less of my friends were going. The music was changing a bit. Then Amanda, the main DJ left. They brought someone else in who played different music. The freedom was gone. The flavour was gone. It didn’t matter what the projector was running on the wall which I’d sometimes watch when I was tired of dancing. It just stopped being the same.
Last year, a week or so before Halloween, word got out that Jay got ousted due to a confusing thing about liquor licenses or something. I don’t remember and the details don’t matter. I remember walking in the first day the new owners (who owned Cheetahs, not hard to guess what Cheetahs is and, no, it’s still around) took over and nothing felt right. It was like walking into the house I left when I was 10 years old and someone new lived there. They had new furniture. They watched TV on a different wall. They painted. Something was amiss. Everything was served in plastic cups and all of the staff who had been there for years just tried to grin and bear it. There was still time for one more Halloween at the Loop.
I skipped it.
I only went in one more time when my friends were invited to go there and wanted to see if the magic was still there. I think we left in less than 15 minutes. That’s how bad it felt to return. They tried to keep it going but clearly it didn’t work. Today we got the news: Loop is no more. Building sold. Employees didn’t even know they were out of a job. It’s no surprise, but it is.
Here I sit, thinking about a place I spent a large portion of my 20s in. Heck, that was my 20s. All that is left are photos and hazy memories. But it wasn’t just the building. The Loop had a run that lasted years before I got there but was dying out before it left Jay. Nobody wanted to really admit it. It started a little before Amanda left the UFO DJ booth and thinking back, that’s what I focus on. The Loop was becoming a tired routine before all of this. But it was a tired routine we could still be happy about, still go to see all of our friends on the occasional Saturday. And new people could have experienced it. It could have had a comeback.
A month or two ago at Venue, my friends and I all went for a Saturday night. One of the bartenders from the Loop was there at his own station, and Derek could make us the muds. The music and the atmosphere actually resembled quite a bit of what I experienced at the Loop and was the closest experience I had to Loop, save for a 90s themed bar in Athens, Georgia called, well, 9D’s. There were other people there who used to frequent the Loop, some I knew, others I did not. And it was a Loop night. It was an honest to goodness Loop night circa 2009. We got sweaty, we danced hard, we got drunk and we had fun. It was a little messy, a little dirty, and a lot of happy. I loved it.
I didn’t need Chatham Street. All I needed was the right elements. My 20s are over. I’m 30 and going out every Saturday for blackouts just isn’t in the cards. Okay, sometimes in the cards. It would be nice for Jay to open something new but I know it won’t be the Loop. And that’s fine. The Loop is gone. Farewell. From what we remember, we will never forget.