The tiny city of Glendale, just off Colorado Boulevard, has long been known for skin clubs Shotgun Willie's and Mile High Saloon. But last week it came down hard on a rock club where a performing musician did a three-song set wearing nothing but his bass.
Alibi's, a bar and grill at Birch and Leetsdale, was already facing suspension of its liquor license by the city because of alleged drug deals on the premises by another band that had played there last winter. The city shortened that suspension to seven days but placed the club on a year's probation. After the incident involving Andy Pfeiffer of the band M.F. Groove Machine, the club was slapped with a new suspension totaling 58 days; its proprietors closed the club's doors indefinitely while pursuing an injunction to stay the city's punishment.
Alibi's switched to a harder-edged format two years ago, and its employees have complained that Glendale police have harassed their patrons.
"It's not like somebody got shot in there," says club manager Matt Myers. "Some guy played naked for two minutes. It's kind of silly they're making such a big issue out of it."
"Glendale has been harassing the club for quite a while," says Chris Dellinger, lead singer for M.F. Groove Machine and a bouncer at Alibi's in 1992 and 1993. "It's not just a case of this one incident involving our band." A favored hangout of local hard-rock players, Dellinger adds, Alibi's is a popular place to perform because of its size and its sound quality.
His club "caters to bands," says Matt Myers. "We pay them and we treat them like human beings." The city council has little idea of Alibi's role in the music community, Myers maintains. "Not one of them has ever set foot in the club. They don't know what they're doing," he says. "They're destroying a thriving music scene."
"I've never been inside a crack house, either. Therefore I shouldn't enforce the law?" scoffs Glendale mayor Steve Ward. "I guess I'm supposed to walk a mile with their guitar. I don't buy it."
Andy Pfeiffer didn't have license suspensions or preliminary injunctions on his mind when he decided to rock without his jock in the early hours of August 28. The set was to be three songs long for the funk-rap-metal band, the tenth of eleven groups to perform during an evening of local-music awards. "I just wanted to bust out and do something crazy to make it a memorable night," Pfeiffer says. "I wanted it to be a humor thing. If the cops hadn't been there, everybody would have laughed hysterically and gone home. But the cops showed up."
Testifying before a sober-faced city council last week, Officer Chuck Shea of the Glendale police explained that he and his partner were doing a routine check of the crowded bar when they paused near the front of the stage. When M.F. Groove Machine began to play, they noticed that one guitarist was shirtless, Shea recounted. When the musician turned his back to the crowd, it was apparent that he was wearing no shorts, either, said the officer. Looking closely for a G-string, Shea said he and his partner found themselves "shocked and kind of stunned" to see the rocker's privates tracking the backbeat behind his bass. It was something he'd never encountered in seventeen years of bar patrols in Glendale, the veteran officer told the council.
Meanwhile, Pfeiffer recalls, "I was in my own world up there." The sensation of playing without clothes wasn't entirely new to him: He'd done the same thing at a private New Year's Eve party a couple of years before. With the stage lights in his eyes, unaware of the police, Pfeiffer was feeling "kind of invincible" until the power to the stage was cut.
After club employees informed him that the Glendale police would let the show go on if he put on some clothes, Pfeiffer slipped on a pair of boxer shorts and joined his bandmates on stage for their final number. Not far into the song, though, Pfeiffer approached the edge of the stage and a male patron reached up and yanked down his shorts. Pfeiffer kept playing.
"I figured I was going to jail anyway, so I might as well have some fun and finish the song," he says.
But instead of being put behind bars, Pfeiffer ended up outside the bar dressing hurriedly in the dark after a friend dragged him through the crowd and out the door, he says.
Inside, Officer Shea and partner collared the lead singer of Chaos Theory, who, like Pfeiffer, sports a shaved head. While identities were being sorted out, Pfeiffer caught a getaway ride.
Five days later, hearing an arrest warrant would be issued for him, Pfeiffer turned himself in. He'll face a charge of indecent exposure in Arapahoe County Court on October 14.
Reflecting on the incident, Pfeiffer says, "I just like to have fun, as long as nobody gets hurt and it doesn't cost me too much money."
While Pfeiffer could get six months and a $750 fine, the club could suffer more from the loss of business.
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"It would cause my client irreparable harm," says Alibi's attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca. "The city alleged the incident was a willful and deliberate violation of the liquor code that employees of Alibi's should have prevented. But it was beyond their control. If some jerk wants to take his clothes off and he's out of reach, how can you stop him? As their own officer testified, it was a once-in-seventeen-year event. Two uniformed police officers there couldn't prevent it--how could anyone else?"
Mayor Steve Ward is unmoved by Pagliuca's argument. "It wasn't once in seventeen years," he says. "It was twice in five minutes. There was some sympathy last month during the hearing involving the drug buys, which could be done discreetly and possibly out of the view of employees. But a guy naked on stage? C'mon. How could they miss that?"
Under city ordinances, Alibi's does have the option of opening without a liquor license, notes city manager Gary Sears. "They could apply for approval as a teen club," Sears says. "Then they could have live music." The only hitch: No dancing would be allowed.
According to Matt Myers, Alibi's is seeking a new location. In Denver.