Twenty-nine years ago this week (12/7/79), the city’s first punk venue, downtown’s Skeleton Club, reopened at 202 West Market Street. The original locale on Fourth Avenue, across from Horton Plaza, had been shut down the previous month due to zoning problems and what club owner Laura Fraser alleged to be police and municipal harassment.
The new Skeleton Club held 350 people and served only soft drinks and coffee, though Fraser hoped to open a bar and restaurant next door. On opening night, the Penetrators, Mature Adults, Non, and the Rick Elias Band all performed free, donating door proceeds to Fraser’s fund to keep the club operating. They sold 325 tickets at $3 apiece.
“I remember a room full of sweaty people that were crushed against the stage,” recalls former Penetrator Gary Heffern. “The lighting in the place was horrible, there were couches that were spread around, and the place stank. I was overwhelmed and shocked at the amount of people that showed up.”
However, fire marshals appeared and announced the room was 100 people over its capacity, even though the tables and chairs had been removed for the event. Owner Fraser took the stage and asked if any volunteers would depart in return for a refund. “Police are ticketing cars parked illegally on Market Street,” she announced, “so maybe those people should be the ones to leave.”
Fraser later told local magazine Kicks (January 1980), “Can you imagine? I’ve never done anything that ridiculous before in my life.” Fire marshals were eventually satisfied, and the show continued. The club would remain embattled on many fronts, until its eventual demise. To be continued.…