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Alex's on Ashland Plaza forced to close

Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar — a popular musical venue in Ashland that has featured many local bands — abruptly closed its doors Saturday.

"It's done," co-owner Charles Tobey said. "It wasn't our idea. It's a big, convoluted thing."

Tobey said he wasn't prepared to discuss the closure because it has been emotionally draining, and he is still working through some issues.

"There's no simple thing that's going to make a lot of sense to people," he said. "I understand the local interest because of the history of the place."

Tobey and partner Quinn Courtright have operated Alex's for 10 years, attracting locals who went to see top-notch bands in an intimate atmosphere.

A sign on the front door of the restaurant indicates the landlord placed a lien on everything inside the building, including the equipment.

From its second-story perch above the plaza, Alex's balcony is a popular hangout. Santa Claus heralds the tree-lighting ceremony from the balcony each holiday season.

"That place was the gold standard for Ashland for many, many years," said Greg Frederick, bassist with the popular local band The Rogue Suspects. "Charles and Quinn were always good to the musicians."

Frederick said he's seen other restaurants come and go over the years as they struggle to cover their overhead in a tough market. "It's kind of a shame," Frederick said. "Alex's is very well-respected among all the musicians. How sad for everybody in the community."

Ashland resident Alex Reid opened Alex's in May 1987 and knew the current owners were undergoing financial hardships.

"I knew they weren't going to make it through this winter. I just didn't know when," he said. "They were struggling. I was lenient over the years with what they owed me."

Reid said the landlord plans to continue using the space as a restaurant, though he's doubtful it will remain as "Alex's."

"It's sad to see my name come down," Reid said.

When he sold the restaurant to Tobey and Quinn, Reid thought they would be able to keep it going. Tobey was his chef and Quinn was bar manager.

Reid said he ran Alex's as a restaurant and bar, but Tobey and Quinn added musical events. However, he said the restaurant, with its soft fir floors, wasn't really set up as a musical venue and had taken a beating from the crowds.

Ashland historian George Kramer's said the building that houses Alex's was formerly Perrine's department store.

Kramer said the balcony had been removed at one point, but was replaced sometime in the 1980s.

Kramer said he just ate at Alex's about a week ago.

"I'm sorry to see them go," he said.

David Pinsky has played at Alex's for a long time and played there every Monday night for four years.

Pinsky said the Ashland Blues Society had its first meeting in Alex's.

"Charles and Quinn were very generous with their space and time," he said. "When my son passed away, they let us have some space in there to help remember him."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.