Pat Hanych looks like a neighbor lady who'd call the cops on a really loud punk band. Her soft, blond hair frames pointy glasses, and her blouse is sprinkled with a pattern of small blue flowers. Add a fresh coat of pink lipstick, and she's ready for an afternoon outing at Parmatown Mall.
But Hanych, owner of the punk rocker's paradise Pat's in the Flats, has never scolded anyone for blasting their music, even though she prefers Rosemary Clooney to Johnny Rotten. Growing up in a bar, she learned tolerance early. One of her earliest memories is of a regular named "Booze-Nose Annie" playing "Don't Fence Me In" on the jukebox "like 50 times a night."
She was 11 when she started washing dishes at the luncheonette/nightclub on West Third Street that now bears her name. Her dad bought the two-story house in 1945, when it had already seen better days. He christened it Anne's Lunch, after her mom, "a great pot-dirtier," says Pat, who's now 62.
Constructed around 1875, the place had done hard time as a card-players' club and a nude show bar. In 1917, it was nearly submerged by the flooding Cuyahoga River. A picture from that year shows Willie Neal, the hired hand, climbing into a rowboat from his second-floor apartment window.
Pat's dad streamlined the operation, pink-slipping the showgirls and draining all the fancy liquor so he could sell just beer. "He poured it in a big vat, mixed it all together, and the customers had a happy time," recalls Pat.
At one time, the Hanychs owned three other beer joints on the near West Side. "When my uncles came out of the service, my dad would buy another bar so the family could stay together," she says. "He would just take them into the business, and we expanded that way." Eventually, the uncles lost interest, and the other locations were sold.
Back then, the only music was on the jukebox. But ever since Pat's name went on the shingle in 1987, she's been through several live-band phases, letting her patrons book the acts.
It's an ideal location to make noise, its nearest neighbors being the railroad, a gravel pit, and a white cluster of chemical tanks rising from the earth like giant mushrooms. Which is good, because some of the garage rockers who play at Pat's sound like their last big gig was their parents' garage.
"Here's a picture from the Battle of the Worst Bands," says Pat, pointing to a photo album assembled by one of her patrons. "Believe me, it was not misnamed. They needed help."
Rosemary Clooney's orchestra could sure teach them a thing or two. Pat and her friend Donna recently saw the old-timers live. "I told Donna, 'You know, these guys are excellent musicians. They play from [sheet] music. Did you ever see any of my bands play from music?'"
Pat has her band customers and her lunch customers, and the two rarely cross paths. The lunch crowd trickles in from nearby factories. Its number has dwindled, as places like Clifton Concrete and Usher Oil have coughed their last column of soot.
"After all these years, people come, people go, and you forget what happened 10 years ago," says Pat. "So they show up on your doorstep and say, 'Hey, remember me?' And I say, 'Well, um, where did you work?' That usually helps."
Rick Krause, a former Clifton Concrete employee, is Pat's most faithful customer. Although he travels frequently in his new job as a cellular-phone-tower installer, he still drops by two or three times a week. "When the music starts, I leave," he says, his brown hair fanning out in a crushed halo from under his ball cap.
Pat and Rick look out for each other. She buys his raffle tickets for the Irish Northern Aid Society, and he occasionally works the door. Rick also credits Pat with expanding his culinary range. Before, he would eat only meat and potatoes. Now he eats cole slaw and salad, too. "She's definitely upgraded my menu," he says.
Even Rick, however, is predated by the pictures on the wall. World War I wrestling photos, varnished with age, have stayed in place since World War I. And a wedding picture of Joe and Gloria Fiasco, a couple who were married at the bar, has outlived the actual marriage.
Tenants once lived upstairs, but that's been boarded up since 1969, when Pat's brother, William, was fatally shot in a holdup. Overcome by grief, her dad barricaded himself in the apartment and tore it up, ripping moldings off the walls. "We thought he was remodeling," she says. "That's what he said he was doing.
"If there wasn't so much work upstairs, I wouldn't mind living there. I have a yard, I have everything here for me. But it's disheartening when I go up there and take a look." Though she lives in Parma, she's been known to sleep on the club's stage, in the few hours between cleaning up after a band and opening for breakfast the next morning.
Staring at the same woodgrain for 51 years wasn't Pat's life plan. After graduating from Ohio State University, she wanted to become a lawyer, but her brother's death -- and then her father's six months later -- changed all that. "To tell you the truth, when I look back on it, I say, 'What am I still doing here?'"
Sometimes, when she goes home, the sun is out and her eyes have trouble adjusting. The bar isn't as dark as some clubs, though. Patrons can actually see the bands. "And the bands don't like that," says Pat. They ask her to shut off some lights, but she can't. "It's all on one switch. The register won't work if I turn everything off." So they'll unplug the neon sign above the stage, which says "Pat's" in Popsicle-colored letters.
"They want to play in the dark," she remarks. "And some of them need to play in the dark, too."
At night's end, Pat occasionally has to pull the plug on a band that won't stop playing. "Okay -- I know where the breaker is!" she says. "Turn off the electricity. Show's over!" Spoken like a true neighbor lady from Parma.
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