“You don’t even have to interview us, just take pictures of these walls," said Gilbert Cruz, booking manager for The Jinx, summing up the bar's legacy in this city.
The Jinx is more than just an institution of Savannah’s nightlife. It’s a community of people who have spent the last 15 years building a home for live music.
Through the antique, iron-bar draped doors guarding its entrance is a sanctuary for all the incarnations of rock ’n' roll. Legends have graced the stage. There was a fight at a Mountain Goats show once.
One night you may stumble into The Train Wrecks blasting through a set of high-octane alt-country, and then return the next night for music from the likes of Black Tusk, Dead Boys, Agent Orange, Charles Bradley or Murder By Death. The variety of entertainment on any given night could be Savannah Sweet Tease Burlesque Revue, circus freak shows, blood wrestling, and local music from indie rock to hip-hop. It was home to metal bands Baroness and Kylesa, and remains the home of country outfit Damon and the Sh!tkickers.
In a city lacking in a true live music venue, The Jinx has cemented itself as the center of the scene time and again, as other venues open and close.
Lot of memories
When The Jinx opened in 2003, the walls were mostly exposed brick. Over the last 15 years, memorabilia has been added to nigh every open spot, but they are more than just the bar’s decoration.
Owner Susanne Warnekros, bar manager Tony Beasley and Cruz have filled a lifetime with memories in The Jinx, adding more pieces of decor each year. They’ve all known each other for over two decades, before The Jinx was born.
Most of the bartenders are native Savannahians and have close to or over a decade of experience slinging drinks under the steel and chain Jinx banner. Two of them went to kindergarten together.
Cruz has been fired several times.
“How many times have we gone separate ways and gotten back together?” Warnekros asked Cruz.
“I can’t even count,” Cruz replies.
“It’s been a long 23 years, but a really fun 23 years,” Warnekros adds.
'One weird club'
In the spring of 2003, the Velvet Elvis closed its doors due to financial issues. Warnekros sought out the owner of the building, and in October of the same year, opened the bar as The Jinx.
“It was really the only place in town that any of us felt welcome in,” Warnekros said. “There was definitely a feeling of family structure back then. I didn’t want Savannah to lose that. We have to have one weird club.
"Music has always been a huge part of my life and most of the people in my family as well. This felt like the right evolution for me. With my bar experience, knowing that these two guys would work here, I felt pretty confident that we could do it the right way. Here we are 15 years later.”
Savannah has changed drastically since The Jinx opened. Just in the last five years, downtown has become inundated with more visitors, bridal parties, weekenders, and the local crowd has grown older. The Jinx staff has as well. They’ve watched and celebrated with each other as they've gotten married, had children and settled into something resembling adulthood.
'At a crossroads'
As The Jinx faces a different Savannah, Warnekros is looking to shift the bar’s business model slightly to accommodate a new crowd, while staying true to her founding principals.
“I feel like we’re at a crossroads now,” Warnekros said. “All of us have had so many changes in our lives over the past five years and regulars, we’re all getting older.
“We’re going to be making changes over the fall, that I think will be good for business. I think it will maximize the potential of the space and reach a broader audience in a certain way. It’s going to be just like this, it just might be a little earlier in the night. We’re making adjustments and seeing what works.
“I won’t stray too far off what we are right now [musically],” Warnekros added. “I find it incredibly important to stay true to that, although it’s not always financially the best. We all feel really strongly about sticking behind who we’ve always been.”
“We’ve always been an eclectic bar,” Beasley added. “Whether it’s hip-hop night, or a dance night, or honky-tonk or metal. It’s always been, if anyone in the staff likes something, then we’ll be, let’s give that a try. We’ve done so many different kinds of bands and acts that have come through there. There’s not a certain Jinx sound.”
Time to celebrate
The Jinx will celebrate its 15-year anniversary with two nights of rock ’n’ roll. First up, on Oct. 12, Basik Lee will be spinning beats. Savannah rapper Dope Knife will play a set, and there will be a special appearance by the Savannah Sweet Tease. Then a trifecta of rock will close out the night, starting with Savannah’s best pop-punk band Jeff Two-Names and the Born Agains, followed by the return of CUSSES. Legendary Savannah rock group Superhorse returns to The Jinx stage that night as well. Superhorse played the second night of The Jinx’s grand opening 15 years ago.
A slew of touring acts plays Oct. 13, including Boo Hag, Mississippi John Doude and Atlanta’s Reconciler. Savannah garage rock quartet COEDS closes out the night.
Doors open at 8 p.m. with shows at 9. Sharp.
“I think the biggest thing about us is we want to stay true to who we are and offer people a room — there’s not another room like this in Savannah that is as eclectic as it is,” Warnekros said. “It’s not easy to keep the venue going. I am surprised that none of us have had a heart attack. It’s so stressful.”
“I might have had a minor one,” Cruz added.