UPDATED Nov. 28, 12:45 PM: Judge Ted Berry waived
the tracking device requirement for the protesters today, and those who posted bail (all but one) should be released in the next few hours.
Original Post: At least some of the 15 protesters arrested during Tuesday’s march through downtown Cincinnati in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo. paid bail the next day. But while most folks were at home enjoying Thanksgiving Thursday, they were still in the Hamilton County Justice Center because some county offices are closed.
The march drew as many as 300 people during its nearly three-hour duration. During that time, at least 100 protesters streamed onto I-75, bringing traffic to a halt for a few minutes. Police, who had blocked traffic in the northbound lane of the highway, ordered protesters off under threat of arrest.
Those who didn’t leave fast enough ended up in jail.
The protesters were held without bond overnight and arraigned at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bond for the eight charged with shutting down I-75 was set at $3,000. According to Hamilton County Criminal Court documents, two of those arrested, Liz Cambron and Aalap Bommaraju, paid bail early that afternoon. But they’ll be in jail over Thanksgiving, and maybe until Monday, their attorney Joe Russell says.
Judge Melissa Powers, the presiding judge, deemed the arrested protesters flight risks and ordered they be fitted with electronic monitoring devices. But the office that provides the devices closed at noon today and won’t reopen until next week.
“I don’t undersand how my clients are flight risks,” Russell said of Cambron and Bommaraju. “They aren’t the kind of people who want to get anyone run over.” Cambron is a graduate student at University of Illinois Chicago, and Bommaraju is a health worker pursuing his PhD at UC.
He says the two weren’t acting recklessly and were merely exercising their first amendment rights.
The rest of the group arrested on I-75 look to be in a similar situation. Brandon Geary, Robert Fairbanks, Hilliard Herring, Zachary Lucas, Cerissa Newbill and Rhonda Shaw were also arrested on the highway and have been ordered to wear the tracking devices after release on bond.
Representatives with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts said they
could not provide any information on the cases during phone calls
“The reason they’re still in jail is because the county doesn’t have the electronic monitoring devices available,” Russel said. He was in court Friday morning working to get the two released.
A vigil asking the court to release the protesters on bond drew a crowd of about 35 people Thanksgiving day, including family members of some of the protesters. "He didn't even know he wasn't going home," said Evan Geary, brother of Brandon Geary, who also posted bond. "My parents had to tell him he wasn't going home," said I'm surprised my parents didn't come," "They were very happy this was happening," he said of the vigil.
Both Bommaraju and Cambron, along with others who were arrested after entering I-75, are charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor, and inducing panic. That charge is usually a first- degree misdemeanor, but could be a fifth or fourth degree felony if a prosecutor finds that significant “economic damage” was done in the commission of the offense.
One of the best things about Cincinnati’s current urban renaissance is that older spaces — some unused or even previously unknown — are being reinvented for new purposes. Churches and firehouses become brewpubs and restaurants, office buildings become apartments, underground tunnels become tourist attractions.
Since artists are sensitive to their surroundings, a group called Near*By has lately begun to use such spaces — sometimes — for special-event exhibitions. Happenings, sort of.
In its press release, Near*By describes itself as “an untethered curatorial collective that seeks to bypass the art institution, working as liaison between artists and pluralistic audiences. We aim to create ephemeral and interdisciplinary exhibitions that connect art with location and meld curatorial and artist practices while blurring the boundaries between installation and white cube.”
I’ve missed some of the previous events, although I’ve heard that Andy Marko’s attempt to launch his guerilla campaign to become Cincinnati’s Minister of Performance Art (why not?) was amusing at Fountain Square last October. And High Art, an event held atop the Carew Tower also in October, almost avoided a rainfall. Near*By’s first event, last May’s Moon Show, proved very sagacious — it was based on a premise the Apollo 11 moon landing was a staged event; the movie Interstellar plays with (and upends) that premise, too.
But I did make last week’s Lightgeist at Over-the-Rhine’s Rhinegeist brewpub and it was great. Rhinegeist has the open space of an old-fashioned upper-floor school gym (maybe a couple of them) and looks like one, too, although not too many school gyms would have huge metal brewing tanks for beer.
Actually, the space was part of the old Christian Moerlein brewery’s bottling plant, which was in business from 1853 until Prohibition. The building’s rebirth as a craft-beer business has been one of the Cincinnati revival’s bigger success stories.
For Lightgeist, Near*By invited 17 artists/artist groups to show work for just one night throughout the space. There were familiar names and new ones, many with connections to alternative galleries or the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. The theme was “dematerializing” the image, which resulted in some fine video and sound work especially.
Lightgeist started at 7 p.m. and, according to Maria Seda-Reder (a Near*By member as well as a CityBeat arts writer), some 300 people came to witness the work during the next three hours. (Other Near*By members include Jon Auer, Chris Reeves, Loraine Wible, Joe Hedges and Anastasiya Yatsuk.)
It was a party atmosphere with plenty of beer, but the audience was there to see the work. And there were people of all ages, revealing that there is growing curiosity about local contemporary art — a necessity for any city trying to have an urban renaissance.
I didn’t take detailed notes on everything, but Charles Woodman’s debut of his “Wavelength-pure signal, no camera” screen image was involving, and Alice Pixley Young’s projection of bird-like moving images against and past an arrangement of physical objects was deeply moving. Caroline Turner and Ian Anderson’s ghostly pinprick of white light on an eerie background was a work deserving of more time.
Lightgeist was the latest evidence that this has been a great year for presentations of video and film art here — DAAP’s Electronic Art program and screenings at Weston Gallery, Manifest, FotoFocus and Cincinnati Art Museum’s Eyes on the Street.
In the last half-dozen years, we’ve had quite a few ambitious artist coops and collectives start up bricks-and-mortar galleries/performance spaces but fail to keep them going. (Semantics is the most notable exception.) So Near*By’s idea is a good one — use the surplus of fascinating spaces around town for one-off events. It’s not a substitute for having more permanent contemporary spaces, which we need, but it’s an important part of any art scene.
Near*By is planning 2015 events now — some of which may involve collaborations with galleries. There will be more coverage in CityBeat.
Hey y’all. Yesterday was a long one, but today’s my birthday and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So yeah, that’s awesome.
The big news this morning is something you’ve probably already heard about, maybe from our coverage last night. Roughly 300 people yesterday gathered at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse on Fifth Street for a rally organized by the Cincinnati chapter of the National Action Network. City and state politicians, including State Rep. Alicia Reece and Mayor John Cranley spoke at the event. At some point, most of those gathered embarked on what would become a nearly three-hour march that shut down I-75 and led to 15 arrests. Organizers of the rally say the march wasn’t part of their plans, and not all those who marched went out onto the highway. Protesters started dispersing about 8:30 p.m. after the march ended at the Hamilton County Justice Center. Those arrested on the highway are being charged with violations like disorderly conduct and inducing panic, while those arrested elsewhere are charged with disobeying traffic signals, according to court records. UPDATE: at least some of those arrested have been bonded out.
• Tell us how you really feel. A speech by Mayor John Cranley given Nov. 20 at the Cincinnati Masonic Center had many moments of surprising candor, according to the Business Courier, even for a mayor known to be upfront with his thoughts. During the speech, which wasn’t announced to the press but was recorded by the group, Cranley compared the state of the region’s bus system to the Titanic, called on-street bike lanes “special treatment” and a “disruption,” and called rail projects like the streetcar “19th century technology.” While those comments are provocative, they align pretty well with past positions the mayor has taken. Cranley said the bus system’s finances are in bad shape and argued the city shouldn’t be subsidizing county bus riders. The fare for SORTA buses outside the city is higher, but that higher rate doesn’t pay for the extra cost of running the buses. Cranley also offered a fascinating idea at the meeting: that the Census’ estimate for the city’s population is too low. Cranley thinks the city may have 310,000 residents, more than the roughly 298,000 the Census estimates.
• A new Over-the-Rhine business incubator is opening up Friday for people with great ideas but fewer resources. Mortar, a so-called “urban idea laboratory” on Vine Street, will offer a 10-week business class and support for entrepreneurs, especially underprivileged potential business owners, looking to start a business in Cincinnati’s urban core.
• As we reported yesterday, Ricky Jackson came to Cincinnati yesterday to thank the Ohio Innocence Project. The University of Cincinnati program helped him prove his innocence after he was convicted of a murder he didn't commit in 1975, and, as he said during a triumphant event yesterday at UC, “saved my life.” Jackson, who was just released last Friday, spent 39 years in prison for the crime before being exonerated.
• A bill being considered in Ohio’s General Assembly would end the state’s 20-year statute of limitations on rape cases. But that bill is stalled due to controversy over potential far-reaching consequences. Some lawmakers are pushing for an amendment to the law that would only eliminate the expiration date for cases in which DNA evidence is present proving the identity of the offender. The state of Ohio currently has a backlog of rape kits, evidence collected from a victim after a sexual assault is reported. That’s made finding and prosecuting rapists in a timely manner difficult.
• Finally, this is interesting. Do you remember the Presidential Fitness Test? If you went to public school, you probably took the test, which measured your running ability and your capacity for push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises. When I had to take this test as a youngin, I always pictured a very angry Ronald Regan (I don’t know why I pictured him. Bill Clinton was president at the time) yelling at me to do more sit-ups so the communists wouldn’t win. Turns out, I wasn’t far off the mark, though I should have imagined an earlier president. President Kennedy pushed for youth fitness measures in 1960, decrying the nation’s “growing softness.” The actual test wasn’t instituted until 1966. It included a softball throw that was meant to simulate chucking grenades. Probably would have been more excited for the whole thing as a child if they’d kept that part in.
A rally in protest of recent police shootings of unarmed black men drew as many as 300 downtown Tuesday evening. The rally was followed by a nearly three-hour march that made its way through downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the
West End before briefly shutting down I-75 as protesters streamed onto
The rally and march were in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo., where black 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot Aug. 9 by white Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Yesterday a grand jury in St. Louis County declined to indict Wilson, spurring civil unrest in the area and demonstrations in cities across the country. In Cincinnati, the march through downtown neighborhoods had echoes of the city’s past — civil unrest lasting days tore through the same communities in 2001 after unarmed black teenager Timothy Thomas was shot by white Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach in OTR.
“Honestly, after the decision yesterday I was a bit numb,” said Curtis Webb, as he marched through downtown. “I even questioned whether I would come out tonight. I’m tired of hearing the talk. I’m more interested in seeing the walk about these situations. As a black man, I’m… I don’t know. I’m scared to be black. I don’t know how to say it. I’m always questioning, 'Am I doing the right thing? Do I look too dangerous? Are the police going to pull me over?' ”
Cincinnati’s demonstrations started with a rally at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse on Fifth Street attended by State Senator-elect Cecil Thomas, State Rep. Alicia Reece, community organizer Rev. Damon Lynch III and Mayor John Cranley, among others.
At the initial gathering on the steps of the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, Cranley highlighted the progress Cincinnati has made since 2001.
"Like all of you, I am deeply concerned about the loss of life and the events that are unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri," he said. "I can sympathize with all aspects of what the community is experiencing because Cincinnati has had similar tensions in the past. It wasn’t easy, and there were a lot of trial and errors, but we made progress."
“I spent 27-seven years in law enforcement, and not once did I fire my weapon to harm someone,” Cecil Thomas said. “And all of a sudden, we see so many officers so quick to pull their guns. How do you pull your gun on a 12-year-old when someone tells you it looks like he has a toy gun? We have to change the way we do our policing.”
Thomas was a peacemaker during the 2001 unrest, working with police, community groups and the city's Human Relations Commission to broker calm.
Many attendees at the initial rally joined in a meandering march that stopped traffic in many of the city’s major streets and passed just feet from the spot where Timothy Thomas was shot in 2001. However, the rally was much more peaceful than the days of unrest 13 years ago. About 20 police followed the march, blocking off streets and working to corral protesters. Organizers with the Cincinnati chapter of the National Action Network say the march was not part of their plans for the rally.
Tensions rose when protesters, after making their way down Ezzard Charles Drive in the West End, split off onto a highway onramp, spilling over a berm and onto the north-bound lane of I-75. Police had initially blocked the onramp, but moved to the highway to block off traffic temporarily. After roughly five minutes, officers drove protesters off the highway with the threat of arrest. Eight protesters were arrested when they didn’t leave quickly enough. They are being held without bond at the Hamilton County Justice Center.
After leaving the highway, the march continued through the city for another hour, eventually dissipating at the Justice Center on Court and Main streets.
Joshua Davis, who helped lead the march, said the problems go beyond any specific case.
“I’m out here because I have nieces who are four, five, six years old and I want them to come up in a world where they don’t have to be afraid of the cops," he said. "There are many things cops can carry that don’t kill people. I’m out here not because I agree Mike Brown was innocent or guilty, or because the cop was guilty or innocent, but because black men are being killed daily.”
The march ended at the
Hamilton County Justice Center at about 8:30 p.m. Fifteen were arrested during the march, according to police.
UPDATE: A hearing for those arrested was held Wednesday at 12:30, according to the county clerk. Court records show some of the protesters have posted bond.
Ricky Jackson was just 20 and fresh out of the Marines when he went to jail for murder in 1975. Authorities pinned the killing of Harold Franks, a fifty nine-year-old money order clerk in Cleveland, on Jackson and two of his friends, brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman. The conviction came on the testimony of a single twelve-year-old boy with bad eyesight and a confused story.
He spent the next 39 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Jackson was released last Friday, the last of the trio to be freed after that witness, Eddie Vernon, admitted he made up his testimony under police pressure. Today, Jackson was in Cincinnati to thank those who worked tirelessly to help free him.
“I would have walked if it would have come to that,” Jackson said to a packed house on University of Cincinnati's campus. “I wanted to come meet the people instrumental in saving my life.”
The Ohio Innocence Project, which runs out of University of Cincinnati’s College of Law, has been working on Jackson's case since 2010, digging for years to get public records about the case. A Cleveland Scene article in 2011 focused more attention on the story as well. Since those beginnings, OIP has played a huge role in getting Jackson exonerated.
OIP was founded in 2003 to investigate and litigate cases where prisoners have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. The group is made up of UC Law professors and students who use DNA evidence, new witnesses, evidence of police misconduct, and other information to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates. In just over a decade, they’ve helped free 18 inmates who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other charges. Jackson is the longest-serving inmate in Ohio to be exonerated.
Jackson’s codefendant Ronnie Bridgeman was paroled in 2010, but Jackson’s parole board continued to keep him in prison. Jackson says parole boards wanted him to admit guilt and express regret for the crime before they released him. The only problem was, he was innocent.
“I was on the cusp a lot of times,” he said of confessing. “It seemed like, to me, the only way I was going to get out was to admit guilt. But there was a lot more at stake than just me saying I committed the crime when I know I didn’t. That man’s family gets no justice, I get no justice… at the end of the day I just couldn’t lay down with that in my heart.”
He passed the time by staying fit and helping run the prison’s horticultural project. He ran a greenhouse, something he enjoyed immensely. Still, the time was wearing on him.
“After my last parole board hearing, I was really at an all time low,” he said. “I’m running out of time. I’m 57. How much time to do I really have left? I hate to use this cliché, but they came through like a knight in shining armor. When I was at my eleventh hour, didn’t know what direction I was going to take… these guys came.”
Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, says Jackson was steadfast in his innocence. He recalls first meeting Jackson at a recent hearing on his request for a new trial in light of witness Vernon recanting his testimony. Prosecutors were offering Jackson a deal — once again, if he would say he was guilty, he could walk free.
“He just looked at us and said, ‘I don’t need anymore time to think about it. I will not take that deal,' ” Godsey recalls. Prosecutors soon conceded that without their only witness, they had no case. Jackson was free.
There are challenges ahead, to be sure. He spent many of his formative years — when most people go to college, start careers, and build families — behind bars.
The OIP is stepping in again with assistance. The group has raised nearly $43,000 to help Jackson get a new start. They’re also fighting the state of Ohio to get a settlement for him based on his wrongful conviction. That could be huge — $40,000 for every year he was imprisoned, plus lost wages and other damages. But it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes, prosecutors fight against these settlements. So far, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office has not officially acknowledged that Jackson is innocent or that they were wrongly imprisoned.
In the meantime, Jackson says he’s not sure just yet what he’ll do. But he says he’s up for the challenge of building a life.
“It’s not difficult at all," he said. "Compared to what I just came from, this is beautiful.”
Everyone’s favorite naughty bedtime story, Go the Fuck to Sleep, is getting a follow-up! You Have to Fucking Eat by Adam Mansbach is available now. And, like Samuel L. Jackson did for Sleep, Bryan Cranston narrates this new hilariously explicit offering.
Can’t you just hear Walter White reading this to baby Holly?
I’m a sucker for topical parodies of popular songs,
and Adrian Anchondo is behind a few of my favorites. He’s turned Bey's “Partition”
and “Drunk in Love” into fast food anthems and teamed up with Mean Girls’ Daniel Franzese for a twist
on Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” Now they’re back with a Thanksgiving remix of
T-Shfit’s “Shake It Off” — “Shake and Bake”!
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful Damien is still in the game and still too gay to function. And speaking of the boys of Mean Girls…
In Case You Missed It: Someone Photoshopped Guy
Fieri to look less like a deep-fried fire demon and more like a regular dad.
Planning on binging on food and TV this week? I gotchu.
Something else to be thankful for: a music video that’s being touted as
“the new ‘Gangnam Style’.” Because foreign Pop song + weird dance + animals =
viral sensation, here’s Chinese performer Wang Rong’s “Chick Chick.”
A film adaptation of creepy childhood favorite Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has been in the works for a while. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan from the Saw franchise were once attached to the project, but now they’re out and John August is taking over the screenplay, keeping the source material so many people love/fear very close. August has written several Tim Burton movies, including Big Fish, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie, so he may just be perfectly suited to take on Scary Stories.
Beyoncé released a DIY video for “7/11” — one of the new tracks on her Beyoncé platinum edition release (listen to the entire album on Spotify) — and, obviously, it excites me. This will definitely be source material for countless upcoming holiday cards.
Thankfully, BuzzFeed has a guide to throwing your
own Beyoncé 7/11 underwear party.
HBO announced some more casting info for True Detective Season Two. Rachel
McAdams, Taylor Kitsch and Kelly Reilly will officially join previously
announced actors Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn in the highly anticipated drama.
Rachel McAdams as Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff’s detective whose uncompromising ethics put her at odds with others and the system she serves.
Taylor Kitsch as Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle officer for the California Highway Patrol, running from a difficult past and the sudden glare of a scandal that never happened.
Kelly Reilly as Jordan, Frank Semyon’s wife, a former D-list actress who is a full partner in his enterprises and ambitions.
Thanksgiving is just days away, and if you’re traveling back home to crash at your folks’ for the weekend, congratulations: You’re a Back Home Baller.
New movie trailers to hit the Interwebz: Richard "forever Robb Stark" Madden is Prince Charming, Helena Bonham Carter is the Fairy Godmother and Cate Blanchett is the wicked stepmother in Cinderella; Jurassic World looks as grand as it's been hyped up to be; the Bellas return for Pitch Perfect 2; and Paul Feig's Peanuts movie is coming in 2015.
For the 2015 edition of CityBeat's Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (to be held in late January), the public now has a chance to be involved in the process of choosing the nominations from Greater Cincinnati’s amazing music scene. Previously, nominations came directly from the nominating committee, which consists of a variety of local music aficionados (writers, bloggers, club owners, etc.). The nominating committee members still have final say in who gets nominated, but for the first time ever they will be presented with your feedback before making their final decisions.
The ballot will close on Dec. 5. Here are some basic guidelines from the nominations ballot:
For the first time ever, fans will have input into the nomination process for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. For each genre category, please enter the name of the performer you feel is deserved of a CEA for their work in 2014. Recordings released publicly between November 2013 and November 2014 are eligible for Album of the Year nominations. The New Artist of the Year category is for artists who have emerged in that same time span (they don’t have to have formed in that date range, just broken through for the first time).
Nominations are reserved for artists from Greater Cincinnati making original music. Please, no straight-up cover bands. You may only fill out one ballot per email address; additional ballots will be discarded.
A list of the top vote getters in each category will be presented to the nominating committee members. The members will not be restricted to voting only for artists nominated by the public, because some deserved acts may not actively campaign for nominations and the CEAs honor output and accomplishments and not just who has the biggest Facebook friends list or the most followers on Twitter. But the “long list” compiled from public votes will get more artists’ names in front of the nominating committee and help their chances for making the final “short list” of nominees.
Once the nominations are compiled, the final ballot will be placed online for public voting.
Be fair. Be nice. And happy voting!
Your morning news today is gonna be a little grim and heavy. Sometimes that's how the news goes, folks.
A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. The incident has been highly racially charged from the start and caused months of unrest between protesters and police in Ferguson and surrounding communities. Brown was black and Wilson is white. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch delivered the grand jury’s decision in a highly unusual, and perhaps highly unwise, 9 p.m. press conference, despite the fact the grand jury reached its decision much earlier in the day. The rambling, 20-minute announcement lead with a strong condemnation of social media, the 24-four hour news cycle and other seemingly unrelated forces before getting to a strong defense of Wilson from the prosecutor. It’s exceedingly unusual for a grand jury to not hand down an indictment, unless that indictment is for a police officer who has killed someone in the line of duty.
The announcement was followed by waves of anger from already-gathered protesters, and civil unrest quickly spread through Ferguson. Police and National Guard troops on the scene began firing tear gas and smoke bombs shortly after the decision was read. Reports on the ground relayed some peaceful protesters as well as incidents of looting and vandalism. Several buildings and at least two police cruisers had gone up in flames by this morning, and St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar said he had heard at least 150 gunshots throughout the night. President Barack Obama sounded a skeptical note about the decision but called for peace in Ferguson. Brown’s family released a statement expressing their extreme disappointment with the verdict but also called for protesters to remain peaceful.
Calmer demonstrations have sprung up in many cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle and New York. A peaceful demonstration organized by the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the National Action Network will be held in Cincinnati today at 5 p.m. at the U.S. District Courthouse downtown.
• Last week, Cleveland native Ricky Jackson was released from prison after spending 39 years there for a murder he didn’t commit. Today at noon, Jackson will be in Cincinnati appearing at UC’s School of Law to thank the school’s Ohio Innocence Project and others who helped free him. Jackson’s story was first unearthed by the Cleveland Scene and taken up by the Innocence Project shortly thereafter. He was convicted based on the sole testimony of a 12-year-old boy who later admitted he had made up his statements. Jackson is the 18th person freed by the program.
• Over-the-Rhine's newest brewery and tap house is almost ready for guests. Taft's Ale House, which is on 15th and Race, received its fermenters and brewhouse yesterday. They were lowered in with a crane, which is pretty epic. The owners say they'd like to be open by Reds Opening Day next year.
• If someone offered you a free building, would you take it? Hamilton County commissioners aren’t sure they will. Mercy Hospital has offered to donate their former facility in Mount Airy to the county. A number of the county’s offices, including the county’s cramped coroner and crime lab, could move there, but the new location won’t be cheap. It could cost up to $100 million to retrofit the building for its new tenants, money commissioners say they don’t have, especially after their vote yesterday to approve a relatively skinny $201 million budget. Republican Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann have both indicated the county may not take the building after all. Democrat Commissioner Todd Portune is also skeptical about moving county services to Mount Airy, though for other reasons. He says the county’s board of elections, which was also proposed as a tenant at the site, should stay downtown.
• Finally, as if my faith in humanity needed more testing this week, there’s this story. Someone stole a Sasquatch statue out of a family’s yard in Delhi. The thing weighs 400 pounds, so it’s an impressive bit of thievery, though also pretty heartless.
“I want squashy back,” the statue’s owner told Channel 12 News. “We've got to dress him up for Christmas. We can't have Christmas without Squashy."
Stepping into the decorated light cast from the looming ceilings of the Taft Theatre, it’s immediately apparent the space holds memory far outreaching your own. That is, of course, unless you’re about 100 years old and happened to be around Cincinnati in your early teens.
If that were the case, you’d probably remember the other awe-inspiring theaters that entertained the Queen City in those days: the Albee, Shubert and Capitol, to name a few — all astounding architectural representations of the heyday of local theaters. Sadly, the Taft is the only of those grand structures that still remains today, likely because it stands just far enough away from the heart of downtown, just missing out on the urban redevelopment that has defined the city for the past half-century or so.
Taft Theatre was opened in January 1928, inaugurated by lines of suited men and flower-hatted women who were willing to brace the 40-degree weather of the new year for the warm spectacle of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in a shining new entertainment venue.
The theater is part of the Cincinnati Masonic Center, then called a temple rather than center, and is currently owned by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. In its early days it would host Broadway shows, ballets and traveling performers and artists, among other entertainment.
The name, contrary to what some might think, is not a nod to the former United States president William Howard Taft, although many likely know of the street we have to honor him. Rather, the theater was a tip of the hat to William’s older brother, Charles Phelps Taft, a major figure in the Cincinnati newspaper business and a high-ranking Mason who lived just down the street from where the theater now stands.
While it was very popular during its early days and became popular again in the new millennium, the theatre went through a largely dormant period in the second half of the 20th century. In fact, the Scottish Rite applied for demolition rights twice in the 1960s — although they were rejected both times — because they thought the theater would be too expensive to renovate and wanted to replace it with a parking garage.
Luckily, it hung on and didn’t fall into serious disrepair long enough for Music and Event Management, a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, to take over in 2010. The company headlined a $3.2 million renovation, less than a third of the value the Masons had been quoted for renovations decades earlier.
The revamp, finished in 2011, increased the size of the seats, lowering the original capacity of 2,500 to about 2,300, as well as the size of the bathrooms — fewer venue seats, but more toilet seats (does this say something about the needs of folks in the new millennium?). They also took great consideration of modern concerns, spending a heavy load on hooking the building up with eco-friendly air conditioning.
Thanks to the restoration and rejuvenation of the old theater, it now holds about 140 shows a year compared to roughly 90 before renovations, and the annual attendance has also almost doubled. The theater is again one of Cincinnati’s hot spots for entertainment, hosting all kinds of musical concerts as well as theatre, being home to the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. With the upsurge in activity at the beautiful old Masonic Amphitheatre, the tall walls can keep holding and building memories of entertainment that life would be oh-so boring without.
"After a couple months, I started to realize that I liked being in the restaurant more than reading and writing scientific articles," Pesola says. "It was fast-paced, challenging and gave me an avenue to interact with people dynamically. In addition, I really enjoy how tangible the hospitality industry is."
This past summer, Pesola branched out and started selling rotisserie chicken on pita bread at Findlay Market. The resulting Revolution Rotisserie was so popular, he's opening a brick-and-mortar location on Race Street in Over-the-Rhine in early 2015. The rotisserie and bar will do dine-in, carry-out and catering, plus vegetarian options and specialty cocktails.
We caught up with Pesola to learn more about the restaurant and his chicken technique.
CityBeat: Why chicken and how did that relationship come to pass?
Nicholas Pesola: The concept originally had nothing to do with chicken. I wanted to introduce something unique to Cincinnati and I thought that it would be cool to reinvent gyros, one of my favorite foods from my youth. I wanted to stack marinated beef/lamb and do it like they do in Europe/Middle Eastern countries. I knew that I would have to offer other meats so I chose to stick with the rotisserie meat theme. When I put on tastings, everybody liked the rotisserie chicken sandwiches with my gourmet toppings and sauces the most. When no one offered to fund my unproven restaurant concept, I decided to start small at Findlay Market and pilot the idea. I knew I had to simplify my concept in order to be successful so I gave the people what they wanted: rotisserie chicken. I wanted to become known for rotisserie chicken sandwiches on pita bread because I thought that was the most unique. I also thought I would sell more sandwiches versus whole chickens to the Findlay Market crowd.
CB: What's been the best response you've seen from a customer?
NP: We have had many great responses. I love when people walk by my stand, stop abruptly after seeing the sample, and say, "That looks good. But what is it?" When they find out there is rotisserie chicken under the toppings and sauce, it is usually game over. I also enjoy the skeptical customer who reluctantly orders our food and then comes back with friends 10 minutes later because they really liked it.
CB: Can you tell me more about your chicken? Where do you source it? What separates it from other rotisserie? Is there a special technique, seasoning, butcher? A family recipe?
NP: We use Amish chicken from Miller Farms and will be switching to FreeBird chicken which has even more strict standards when it comes to how the chickens have been raised: no hormones, no preservatives, all vegetable diet, more room to roam, etc. Our chickens are never frozen, always fresh. We brine our birds, season them with a custom blend of the best spices, cook them on a gas-fired 40-bird rotisserie to perfection. And I assure you our whole chickens will not sit around for hours and dry out like they do at the grocery store. For our sandwiches, we hand-pull the meat, white and dark, and make sure it maintains its juiciness before serving. We have arrived at our current technique after talking with chefs and experimenting with other methods, but the reality is I'm always looking for ways to make the product even better.
CB: So you're opening a brick-and-mortar spot in OTR? What inspired you to take the jump?
NP: Even before I started at Findlay Market, I wanted to open up a brick-and-mortar shop. I just didn't have enough money and that was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to start small. I knew the time was right to circle back with potential investors when my customers kept asking where Revolution Rotisserie was located after eating our food.
CB: Why OTR? And why Race versus Main or Vine?
NP: I live in OTR and it's a very exciting place to hang out and start a business. The real question should be why not OTR? I believe my concept contributes something very unique to the scene. I chose the spot at 1106 Race Street because it was the size I wanted, featured an open kitchen, and fit my budget. In my opinion, Race Street is the next logical restaurant street in OTR because of Washington Park, Zula, Anchor, and Taft Ale House all down the street. Plus I live on Race Street, you can't beat that commute.
CB: What will be on the menu at Revolution?
NP: Chicken! We will showcase the versatility of chicken with eight rotisserie chicken sandwiches served on grilled pita bread — all of which can be made vegetarian by substituting hummus, black beans or extra veggies. This is a bold statement, considering we are primarily a chicken restaurant, but I think our pita sandwiches and salads set us up to offer one of the best vegetarian menus in the city. Of course, we will do whole/half chickens, side salads, mashed potatoes, cinnamon applesauce and a few other sides. At the bar, we will specialize in specialty cocktail infusions and of course, craft beer.
CB: People love chicken during the holidays. With restaurant prep ahead of you, will you still be at Findlay Market or taking any orders for whole or half chickens?
NP: Unfortunately, the cold weather prevents us from operating at Findlay Market under the tent. However, if people would like to place catering or large carryout orders, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The best way to do this is to visit our website revolutionrotisserie.com.
Follow along with Revolution's progress on Facebook and Twitter @RevolutionOTR.