Photo by Shawn Mishak
Patricia Hanych in front of Pat's in the Flats the day she handed over the keys
It was a bittersweet farewell for Patricia Hanych as she handed over the keys to legendary live music venue, Pat’s in the Flats, last week, just days before her 81st birthday. Hanych closed up shop and decided to put the building up for sale a couple of years ago due to health reasons. The business had been in her family since her father, William Hanych, purchased it in 1945.
It operated first as Pickles before a name change to Anne’s Lunch in 1951, after Hanych’s mother. Hanych worked there since she was in high school with a brief hiatus when she went to Ohio State University.
In the beginning the business was a full-service restaurant and bar tending to the needs of staff from the local incinerator plant and other industrial workers.
“In the summer time, the guys would be working in the garbage plant and they’d come in for lunch,” says Hanych. “The stench they would bring with them because they worked with all this garbage was so that they kind of filled up the business along with the smell at the same time.”
Haynch has many treasured memories over the decades from milestones large and small.
On her 21st birthday, “I was down there and the guys that were working at the sewer department brought me cake and then my aunt and uncle came down at lunch time and brought me another cake and then after work that night, there were some more cakes so that was busy day not mention all the drinks that were involved in-between all those cakes but none the less that was one to remember.”
Not all the memories are happy though.
It was a dark day in January of 1969 when her brother William, named after their father, was shot and killed in one of the three hold-ups that happened at the venue over the years. Her father took her mother to Florida to get her out of her “funk,” as Pat describes it, before her father passed away from a heart attack. Pat thinks the grief of the death of her brother was partly to blame for her father’s demise.
“It made me mad about how this had happened to my family. My mother wanted to sell right away as soon as my dad died,” explains Pat. “I said give me five years, I think I deserve that much. So she said okay. We were doing alright, so I said give me another five years."
Fast forward to 1987 when a local act called Pat’s Hot Knights needed a place to play. Pat allowed them to play there and before long more bands got wind of the bar being a place for original live music and thus began the metamorphosis from Anne’s, simply a blue-collar restaurant and shot-and-beer joint, to one of the most fabled underground music venues in Cleveland history, including hosting the White Stripes for one of their first shows outside of their hometown of Detroit.
Among her favorite local bands over the years she lists the mid-2000s Cleveland power pop-darlings Machine Go Boom, because she said she was able to sing along to their songs.
“Pat's in the Flats was a place I could seek refuge from the boring nightlife and see genuine music played live,” says Michael Baranick, Machine Go Boom's principal songwriter. “I remember seeing The White Stripes opening a show there when they were still figuring themselves out — the headliner (The Hentchmen) were much better that night. Over the years of playing in bands I was lucky enough to form a bond with Pat. She was always the sweetest person to me and sometimes I wished she was my aunt or something. I'll always hold that club, and Pat near and dear to my heart.”
Pat wishes she could have continued going with the club for longer but ultimately it was health issues which made her give the business up.
“My head says I could, and my body says forget it,” says Hanych.
She’s happy to be home and says she has plenty to keep herself occupied as she cooks for and looks after her four-year-old hound dog, Brutus. When I asked her what she might like to convey to all of the patrons and musicians she’s connected with over the years, she said, “I miss them. I wasn’t happy the way this all turned out in the end for me and I never expected it to be a health issue but you don’t know in life. I had hoped we could go out in a different way. I had a good time and I couldn’t have asked for a better job, for me, for what I like to do, which is talk a lot and make friends.”
New owner Aaron Westerburg says he’s uncertain of the plans for the building, which he closed on for a mere $60,000. Westerburg was born and raised in Cleveland and now lives in Hudson with his wife and kids. He realizes the rich history of the building and is open-minded to investment opportunities or concepts for the property.
“I definitely want to bring this thing back to something that people will enjoy and use in the future for many years to come,” says Westerburg.