Rehab St. Louis celebrates Victoria Rose’s 10-year reign this weekend | Art Stories and Interviews | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events

Click to enlarge Rehab St. Louis celebrates longtime co-owner Victoria Rose, the "Diva of the Grove," This weekend.  - COURTESY OF REHAB ST.  LOUIS

Courtesy of Rehab St. Louis

Rehab St. Louis is celebrating longtime co-owner Victoria Rose, the “diva of the grove,” this weekend.

Prior to Victoria Rose’s Rehab St. Louis (4054 Chouteau Avenue) was the powerhouse dominating the eastern flank of the grove, the space had long housed more modest corner bars with a narrower appeal. From the 1990s to 2004 it was Grandma’s Rainbow’s End, a sleepy but colorful spot with an older clientele drinking by day.

“Grandma was such a character,” says Colin Murphy, Editor and COO of #BoomMedia, remembering the late Tim Craddock aka Grandma and describing the bar as “kitschy but cozy.” “[Grandma was] great camp and [had] a gravelly voice like Harvey Fierstein. It was a real drinking bar, like the Clems. He always offered clients the most exotic shots. Chocolate liquors in baked white chocolate shot glasses you could eat. Lots of fun.”

Grandma was also known to feed everyone who entered with her free buffets.

As liked as the bar was, it was slow in the evening. A forgettable mainstream establishment called R-Bar languished in space thereafter. Then Rehab opened in 2009 and struggled to find its niche.

In 2011, Victoria Rose (aka Chad Fox) was the show manager at Attitudes Nightclub and Jim Weckmann was the DJ. Attitudes seemed to be on a death spiral at the time, and while Rehab was busier, she was attracting a lot of what Weckmann calls “unsavory characters.” Drug activity was reportedly rampant. Many who were not part of this scene stayed away. “Groups of people would pass by walking to the other bars,” Rose recalled. “They also had some of the worst drags in town. Bad clown make-up. Simply awful.

An unexpected opportunity

Weckmann and Rose recall their origin story in their own words.

“I met Victoria Rose when I went to work as a DJ at Attitudes,” says Weckmann. “It was when Attitudes was in a dying phase around 2011. I was DJing the show for this loud-mouthed drag queen, and there weren’t many people in the bar at the time. Most had already moved to Rehab and Novak for the shows. She still put on a great show with all her volume and whipping the few people who were there. I thought she was hateful and kept her at a distance.

“About a month into this business, she knew I had worked at Rehab as well, and asked me who she would talk to about getting on the shows there. I gave her the contact details, and the next thing i knew, she was gone and was in rehab and became their show manager very quickly.in december i was called by the owner of rehab and asked if i would be coming back as manager.

Weckmann became the manager when the owners moved to Eureka Springs to open another business. In February 2012, the owners offered Weckmann to buy the bar.

“He said, ‘He said you should go in with Victoria Rose, because he’s doing great things with the shows’ and thinks we’d be successful. Up until that time, I had very little interaction with Victoria. She wasn’t my kind of person to hang around. She did her thing, and I did mine. But somehow it ended up with a down payment. The owner at the time wanted $20,000 down payment, and he would finance for X time at so much a month. We thought we’d talk about it. Chad and I talked, and we learned that I could borrow $10,000 from my ex and that he could borrow $10,000 from his mother. Now he also had another full-time job managing Panera stores. So we started working, we found the $20,000.

“On March 12, 2012, we went to Commerce Bank on Grand in Tower Grove, had them authenticate the agreement that we had drafted ourselves. We opened our checking accounts and gave the owner $20,000, then went back to open the bar and take control with only the cash in the cash drawers, and the rest is history. We immediately started changing things up, ripping up the rotting floors, painting the beer garden and building a stage for our little patio within the first 30 days. At our first Pride in June, we had only been in business for three months, and things were tight! Some weeks neither of us could get a check, but Chad decided he wanted to go all out for our first Pride. He had a volcano in the room that was causing a loud boom, smoke and flames every few minutes…”

Victoria Rose is a big fan of fire and has been known to perform in a circle of spiraling flames.

“At the time, our terrace was small and the upper part was a parking lot and only had access through a small door,” continues Weckmann. “He got a temporary fence, circled the back lot and put up a tent, and our first Pride had a temporary bar and the foam party in the little parking lot. He had spent so much money setting it all up that about three days before I went up to him and told him if he spent a dime on a pack of Kool-Aid I would kill him. It turned out to be extremely successful and allowed us to get the bar where we wanted and to have a good financial footing. And as you say, the rest is history. The best business partner I’ve ever had, and I would do any business again as long as I had him as a partner.

Thinking back to those early days after the purchase, Rose adds, “The first thing I did was fire everyone,” explaining that the employees were the main problem.

Gogo dancers: disappeared. Bad queens: extinct. Rose does not tolerate drugs and she does not tolerate fighting. Perhaps there’s no better sign of his no-nonsense attitude than the infamous Wall of Shame at the entrance, a rogue gallery of those who have been banned for life.

“It’s been ripped off the wall so many times,” Rose says, evoking the anger and humiliation of those featured. “I even got hit in the head with it!”

Today it is locked.

Threats of lawsuits, which are the main tactic used by those who want their photos deleted, have never coerced her. She says a more humble approach has worked: “If someone sits down for a slow period with the manager who was on duty, apologizes and explains why it will never happen again, we will remove them after probation. 30 days.”

The two things Rose is most proud of are creating a welcoming environment and reinvesting in her business. Perhaps the biggest transformation is the patio, which has doubled in size.

“I make sure we have the best of everything, right down to fire extinguishers,” she says.

Weckmann sold his share to Rose in 2015. Kyle Hanten became a partner for a few years, but today Rose shares ownership with Jason Johnson.

Reunion weekend

It will be a weekend of reunion as familiar faces return from near and far to celebrate. Former employees, show managers and even owners will be present. On Friday, May 13, there will be a Beyoncé-themed concert. Divas of the Grove will perform on Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15 will be the Backyard Bash with open bar and free food from 3-5 p.m.

The days are long gone when crowds drove past Rehab to go elsewhere. Today, it is a destination and an anchor. Rose says that while she still has some improvements in the works, she is happy with where the bar is and plans to keep it a fun and safe place for everyone.

When asked how long she would be there, she said she had no intention of going anywhere: “I’ll be the next grandma.”

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