Last call at Hot Rock Sports Bar & Music Cafe

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published July 28, 2021

 Lindsey Shaw, of Chesterfield Township, was the winner of the air guitar contest Feb. 9, 2013, with the band Sponge, pictured, when the club was known as the Ritz. Now known as Hot Rock Sports Bar & Music Café, the popular venue  has closed after being sold.

Lindsey Shaw, of Chesterfield Township, was the winner of the air guitar contest Feb. 9, 2013, with the band Sponge, pictured, when the club was known as the Ritz. Now known as Hot Rock Sports Bar & Music Café, the popular venue has closed after being sold.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 The band Wicked Wisdom, with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, performs during the club’s Ritz days.

The band Wicked Wisdom, with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, performs during the club’s Ritz days.

File photo by Will Harrah

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WARREN — The music scene at one local venue is now quiet.

On July 18, Hot Rock Sports Bar & Music Cafe served its last call when it officially closed its doors. Hot Rocks manager Joe Sgroi said the building had been for sale for “quite some time” and was sold to a private company.

“It’s bittersweet,” Sgroi said. “We’ve had some awesome bands and a lot of great entertainment where everyone could meet and have a good time. We’ve also done a lot for the community. I’m going to miss everything, the concerts and the people I work with.”

Sgroi noted the club is not closing because of COVID-19 as the building had been for sale prior to the pandemic. Throughout its history, Hot Rock Sports Bar & Music Cafe ventured through many revamps and several name changes including New York New York, Hoover Roadhouse, September’s and the Ritz.

The club, located at 24300 Hoover Road, brought in live music of rock, heavy metal, punk and country. No matter if it was a local band or national act, the club always drew a crowd.

On the afternoon of July 18, Howie Herula and Katie Marroso sat at the outdoor patio reminiscing about all the good times. For the past 5 1/2 years Marroso bonded with customers while working as a bartender, and Herula was a regular at the club spinning records as a disc jockey or booking bands.

“My heart is very full. I have so many memories of so many local bands and so many customers that have become friends,” Marroso said. Bartending was hard work, “but it was always worth it in the end.”

Marroso was always appreciative of the bar allowing her to hold American Cancer Society fundraisers.

“Everything was great,” she said. “We always had a lot of fun. I’m not going to say ‘goodbye.’ I’m going to say, ‘See you later’ and ‘Thank you.’”

On the last day, Herula comprised a list of songs featuring the bands that once performed at the club. The music played overhead as patrons stopped in for one final hurrah.

“I’ve been coming here for 33 years since I was 18,” Herula said as the Trash Brats’ “3873 Marlborough St.” blasted through the speakers. “I’ve worked here in some capacity since New York New York. Here, they gave anybody a shot who wanted to play. This bar always gave you a chance.”

Herula’s connection to the club dates back to watching his favorite local bands tear up the stage: Seduce, Toby Redd, Rhythm Corps and Halloween. Meeting Hollywood actress Jada Pinkett Smith when her band Wicked Wisdom played in the 2000s was a highlight, as was seeing Five Finger Death Punch before the band broke out.

But the most memorable moment came in 2006 when Hank Williams III — the grandson of the late Hank Williams Sr. and son of Hank Williams Jr. — played Herula’s wedding reception in front of 300 guests dancing the two-step.

The bar was just not a music club, but was home to Xtreme Intense Championship Wrestling, or XICW. The Sunday night show was an attraction for wrestling fans. Last Sunday, the athletes practiced with each other before showtime. Their camaraderie was easy to spot.

One of XICW’s biggest supporters was there: retired Detroit Red Wings player Darren McCarty, who’s attended many Hot Rocks wrestling shows over the years.

“It’s a family atmosphere. It’s the people involved that bring me back,” McCarty said. “What I love about this is getting to know the group of wrestlers. You get the same fans coming back. The energy and vibe tonight is going to blow the roof right off the place.”

The star athlete hopes to help the group find another spot now that Hot Rocks has closed.

“This is like saying goodbye to the Joe for us,” McCarty said. “We all have those memories.”

Wrestlers Jeremiah Goldmain and L.J. Lawrence heard the news about the building closing.

“It’s the end of an era,” Goldmain said. “Because it’s our last show, it’s going to be the greatest show we’ve ever done.”

“Everyone’s going to turn it up so that’s good, but at the same time it’s bad because it’s not going to be here anymore,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence has been wrestling for 20 years, and Goldmain joined the circuit last year.

“This place always fills up, and it’s more intimate than what you see on TV,” Lawrence said, adding that if a fan calls out a wrestler, “He’s going to look at you and give it right back.”

“Everyone is into the whole show. They know they are going to have a good time,” Goldmain said. “Almost everyone has the guy that’s their favorite.”

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