(Editor’s note: This is Part I of a two-part series. Tomorrow’s finale asks if blame for FLX Live’s closure can be determined and/or placed, and the answer is: quite possibly.)
FLX Live was just shy of reaching its two-year anniversary as a downtown Geneva nightclub — and seemed to be doing very well — when its liquor license was revoked suddenly. The New York State Liquor Authority’s June 20 decision was a virtual death knell for that type of business.
Though his business was shuttered, FLX Live owner Ian Pattison chose to take the high road regarding the situation.
“The people that came to my (nightclub) were amazing,” he said. “I had an incredible experience and got an education learning so much more than further (academic) education could have taught me.
“I am not angry about what happened because, bottom line, ultimately I am better for it. I was so lucky to own it in the first place. Not many 24-year-olds own their own nightclub. I was glad to sit where I sat and am not bitter, just sad.”
Pattison graduated from Hobart College in 2016 with a degree in sociology. Originally from Vermont, his initial plans after graduation were to go to Boston, where he had accepted an entry-level job at a detox unit. At the time he was busing tables at The Belhurst.
During his four years at Hobart, Ian grew to love Geneva and its people. There was a great base of students, faculty and friends he knew, and when he thought about possibly opening a bar, it didn’t take long for him to decide to move forward.
This is a guy who does his research and homework, and he learned there were 52 licensed establishments in Geneva selling alcohol. In a way, it was, perhaps, an over-saturated market.
At Hobart he took some economics classes and an Entrepreneur Leadership course, where he learned about taking an idea to completion. That idea here was a nightclub regularly presenting live music, something he felt the city needed.
FLX Live was born. The move to Boston was canceled.
He leased space on Exchange Street and spent a year building it to his standards. It cost $170,000 of his own money. He also received a $17,000 microenterprise grant from the city.
Why so much? Because, he said, he was working within a 20-year business plan. And, to do that, “you have to have skin in the game.”
FLX Live’s opening night was Aug. 7, 2017.
To meet expenses, FLX Live was open four nights a week. Each night featured a different genre of music, rotating between classic rock, bluegrass, blues/jazz, hip-hop and soul/funk.
It’s inherent that anyone going into a business where alcohol is served expect the potential bar fight. It’s likely that no bar or club in Geneva has escaped the random scuffle or brawl, but a year into business, a serious incident occurred at FLX Live. It was an assault after which Ian decided he needed to rethink how some things were done there.
Before he opened the club, and continuing throughout its existence, he regularly met with police to touch base about dealing with matters that included security issues. They encouraged him to routinely make sure they were involved with the regular goings-on at FLX Live.
He initially worked with Lt. Eric Heieck, who would later retire from the Geneva Police Department. Ian restructured his security operation; he and other employees underwent professional training and became licensed security guards.
“I met with Ian a few times at the PD,” Heieck said. “I was equally impressed and excited for him as he was on the front of the downtown revolution and truly bringing something different, and new to Exchange Street. After being in policing for many years I hoped to instill some direction on what I would do if I was in his shoes and show him what we saw from our perspective. I told him communication with the police and city is important. Knowing your police department and the police knowing the people they serve demystifies the us-and-them mentality and adds a certain direction towards collaboration. It only makes a community stronger when this happens.”
Ian claims that months after opening some GPD officers advised him not to do more hip-hop/DJ shows because the majority of issues were happening on those nights. Ian agreed, but already had contracted with many such acts months in advance.
As far as that first big incident, Ian said he cooperated fully, gave GPD body camera security footage, and even closed the back deck where the incident took place. He also agreed to go to court if investigators wanted him to testify.
In the meantime, he continued to keep GPD in the loop about everything. Little did he know that every time he checked in, GPD was documenting the calls.
The Liquor Authority alleges there were 35 of them. However, through Freedom of Information Act requests, Ian obtained GPD records that showed there were five alleged “trouble” calls.
Because of this, Ian said he began to wonder whether GPD was the working partner he thought they were.