By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Given the amount of time she spent working for the space, maybe it was fair that Warr was offered part-ownership of the room. But that move cemented her downward spiral, ensuring her full-on commitment to a sinking ship. "I got evicted from my apartment," Warr admits. "The money I should've put into my rent, I put into the club."
Desperate for help, Warr approached Valerie Baker, a friend and co-worker at Verizon Wireless.
"I was asked to be an investor," Baker says, "and Amanda was my best friend. And I had money because I'd just gotten a divorce."
But, Baker now admits, like Warr, she went into the deal without much foresight.
"I'd just spent 15 years in suburbia," Baker says. "And I was very bored. I went into it so blindly. But, hey, I was having fun."
That is, until she realized what she had gotten herself into. Dada was on its last legs under Warr, and, to her credit, Baker came up with what she deemed a viable solution to the club's woes. Her boyfriend, Ben Tapia, was helping to run a thriving venue in downtown. Surely, he could help turn Dada around.
So, in June 2008, she decided to bring in Tapia. The plan was simple: He'd handle the local booking, just as he did at City Tavern, and Warr would handle the national acts coming through the club.
But Warr was ready to move on as soon as her responsibilities were downgraded.
"I lost my life savings," she says. "I lost everything. It broke my heart. I felt like a failure. I felt like I let all these musicians down. I felt ashamed of running out of my money. And I felt like I could've done more. Like, if I quit smoking, then that's five more dollars a day that could go back into the club—and that's enough to cover one more person through the door."
Defeated, Warr backed out of Dada, giving up both her responsibilities as booking agent and her share in any club ownership.
At a recent meeting at Bryan Street Tavern, Ben Tapia looks like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. It's a stark difference from the perpetual slumped-shouldered look he showcased while sitting at Club Dada's bar during its final days.
More important, the man who essentially ran Club Dada right up until its doors were closed for good in late July is ready to talk—something he hasn't been willing to do since the club went under.
"When Dada approached me, I was brought in as a booking agent," Tapia says, picking up where Warr left off. "It was maybe 20 days before Amanda was gone. And that's where it started. I'm all by myself. I'm the go-to guy if you want to play Dada. I literally had no help" except as far as money was concerned. There was Baker, of course. And there was Cummins. But, to hear Baker and Tapia tell it, Cummins was essentially absent from any day-to-day managerial responsibilities.
"He'd come in every morning and log on to the computer and look at the money," Tapia says.
But by last spring, Cummins too had left the club and his ownership stake in it. Baker and Tapia, neither of whom had much experience in this field, were suddenly running the club on their own. The Queen and her King.
"We didn't know what we were doing," Baker says. "I became an owner without thinking about what the consequences were. I don't know what I thought. I just thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool to own Club Dada?'"
When Tapia went over to Dada, Florence tested out the waters too. For a while, he even considered investing.
"It wasn't going well over there, from what [Baker] told us," Florence says. "We did our due diligence. We looked at the numbers. It just didn't seem like a smart move for us to get involved with. Ben jumped in head first with his heart fully in it. He wanted to go be the savior of Dada. And you can't blame him for that. But, from a business perspective, I didn't think it was a smart move."
And though he'd hoped Florence would join him at Club Dada, bringing with him his experience in the day-to-day managerial duties of running a venue, Tapia says he understood Florence's reasoning.
"He either didn't have the time, money or patience," Tapia says. "But he didn't want to invest in Club Dada. What was on the table wasn't enough to sell him on it. Obviously, he made the right choice."
Among Florence's causes for concern was this doozy: Dada hadn't paid rent on its space in more than a year and a half, leaving $30,000 to $40,000 in back rent for the new ownership to deal with.
Still, Tapia had hope.
"When Josh didn't come in, our numbers were, in my opinion, where they needed to be, though slightly off," Tapia says. "When he pulled out of the deal, for sure, it raised a red flag for me. But I honestly felt I could've brought it around...and I fulfilled that for a while. We were definitely on track."