In a unanimous 9-0 vote Feb. 3, the Bloomington City Council voted to move ahead with the demolition of the historic Player’s Pub building.
Located at 424 S. Walnut St., the Player’s Pub restaurant and bar was a staple of downtown Bloomington.
The Player’s Pub had been in operation since 2005 when it was purchased by Greg and Mary Hill, but the business has since gone through multiple changes in ownership. The restaurant cited having financial difficulties in recent years, and the Player’s Pub was officially closed and vacated in December 2018, according to Indiana Public Media.
The vote by the Bloomington City Council had the potential to give the Player’s Pub historical designation, an outcome that would’ve allowed the building to stay standing and receive renovations. But the building would’ve cost a significant amount of money to renovate, Bloomington council administrator Stephen Lucas said.
The Player’s Pub didn’t meet all the criteria in the municipal code for historic preservation, Lucas said.
The closure leaves a vacancy in Bloomington’s music scene, local musician Andy Ruff said. Ruff, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the Dew Daddies, said he remembers the very last night the restaurant was in operation.
“The Dew Daddies played the last show ever at the Player’s Pub,” Ruff said. “The pub wasn’t even supposed to open for the show that night. Somehow the owners were able to just go ahead and open it, so we played a great show, and the very next day they shut it down.”
Ruff said he has spent his nights at the Player’s Pub for more than 30 years, since it was called both the Fiddler’s Green and the Pit Stop. To Ruff, the building has been a landmark of the Bloomington community for its atmosphere and prominent music scene, he said.
“There was this incredible collection of Bloomington musicians,” Ruff said. “The best country musicians in this area were playing there for years. They’d have these Tuesday nights jams, and you would just go in and see quality, Nashville, Tennessee-level performances.”
While Ruff had the opportunity to be both a patron and performer at the Player’s Pub, he was also able to share some of the experiences with his son IU senior Hank Ruff.
Hank Ruff said he could recall his first night on the Player’s Pub stage with his father and the Dew Daddies.
“It was probably one of the very first live audience performances that I had ever done,” he said. “It was 6th grade when I first got up there, and I was super little. I remember playing the mandolin to, of course, some old country songs.”
Hank Ruff returned to the stage with the Dew Daddies every few months but said he enjoyed being in the audience and watching the shows as well.
The Player’s Pub offered a range of performers, from local acts to bands on national tours to undercover artists trying to find gigs.
Hank said it was important to have a music venue for all ages, particularly after Rhino’s Youth Center closed down.
“I think that it's detrimental to our town because with Rhino’s down, if you’re not 21, there are no small, local music venues that you can go to and see the arts,” Hank Ruff said. “It’s just incredibly upsetting because that was the only place that someone who wasn't 21 could go out to and enjoy the live music of Bloomington.”