Lack of business closes Tonic

Robin Cook, general manager of the Cochran bars on campus, takes a break while moving materials out of Tonic, which recently closed down. Online Poster

Robin Cook, general manager of the Cochran bars on campus, takes a break while moving materials out of Tonic, which recently closed down. Online Poster

By Kalyn Cooper

The dance bar Tonic, 619 S. Wright St., closed this week after owner Scott Cochrane decided not to renew its lease due to a recent drop in business.

Cochrane said Tonic has been losing business steadily for several years now, and the business was no longer making a profit. Many loyal customers and employees of Tonic were upset by the news, including Amanda Maloka, freshman in LAS, who frequented the bar.

“Tonic had a completely different crowd – I don’t know where everyone will go now,” Maloka said. “It was a great place to dance and wasn’t as Greek-affiliated as some other bars on campus.”

Tonic was first opened at its location on Green and Wright streets 27 years ago under the name Cochrane’s, said Robin Cook, general manager for all campus bars owned by Cochrane’s company, Cochrane Enterprises. It was also called Orchid for several years before switching the name to Tonic in 2001.

Although Cochrane chose not to renew the lease Cochrane Enterprises used for Tonic, he said the property is still owned by his mother, Joyce Cochrane, who doesn’t have plans for the real estate as of yet.

Cochrane said he thinks Tonic’s lack of business was a result of its format and location, including a lot of recent construction in the area.

“In the last few years they’ve built Follett’s and an apartment building right above us,” Cochrane said. “The construction blocked people out and Tonic was just out of the way.”

Kat Wang, senior in communications and former Tonic bartender, said many employees were shocked to hear the bar was closing.

“A lot of people were let go at the last minute, so they didn’t have any idea they were unemployed,” Wang said. “Our staff was so amazing, but we really got no warning about the changes.”

Tonic had tried a lot of things to increase business lately, including hiring new staff, but the location couldn’t be helped, Wang said.

“There were nights where it was great, and we had a very loyal crowd,” she said. “But when no one came in, we didn’t make money. It was hit or miss.”

Wang said she was moved to C.O. Daniels, 608 E. Daniel St., at the beginning of the semester, but didn’t know why until this week. Cochrane Enterprises owns C.O.’s and seven other bars in the area, including The Clybourne and Firehaus, which is still under construction.

Former Tonic employees will all be given the opportunity to interview for new positions at C.O.’s, Clybourne and Firehaus, Cook said.

Cochrane said all of his other bars are currently doing very well, and Cochrane Enterprises is in the process of finding a new location for Tonic’s liquor license.

“C.O.’s and Clybourne are both very strong right now, and we expect Firehaus to do well when it opens after spring break,” Cook said. “The Tonic crowd will probably shift to other bars like Joe’s and Clybourne.”

Maloka said without Tonic she will probably start going to Clybourne more now, which is another of her favorite bars.

“I just like a clean bar where I can sit down, like on the couches that Tonic had,” she said. “Besides that I’m just looking for good music and a dance floor.”

Despite Tonic’s closure, Cook said there is still a niche crowd wanting a club environment that will be looking for new forms of entertainment now.

“Tonic was catered to a specific crowd. We had the only large dance floor, full-time D.J. and dance lights,” Cook said. “There’s nothing else on campus like that.”