BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
There are a lot of bars in Bloomington. There are a lot of music venues in Bloomington. But there’s only one establishment that was intended, from the outset, as a bar and a music venue for those over 18 but under 21. It’s called The Bishop.
Opened in September 2009, its configuration, with a cozy bar in one room and a stage in the other, puts it in a class of its own as a middle ground between the Rhino’s all-ages-club scene and the over-21 crowd at The Bluebird. The age policy matches the demographic for indie rock—last year, it played host to cult favorite Harper Simon (son of Paul). Not bad for a place that, only a few months earlier, didn’t exist.
Boldly painted in red and black, with a minimalist atmosphere, it has a decidedly modern vibe befitting a hipster hangout. “We’re viewed mostly as a venue. If you’re here, you’re probably here for the show,” says owner Stephen Westrich. “I didn’t have any interest in opening just a bar. While we are a bar, we’re also a separate venue, and the two rooms operate independently. It was conceived as a home for music.”
Westrich graduated from IU in 2004, and worked in the music industry as a promoter, he says, “bouncing around the country—Chicago and Los Angeles, mostly.” In 2008, he learned by chance, after picking up an Indiana Daily Student, that the Second Story Nightclub, a longtime Bloomington establishment, had closed. “That was the place that was geared toward presenting original music, as opposed to cover bands.” Seizing the opportunity, Westrich moved forward with his plan to develop another venue that would give independent acts an opportunity to showcase their music. The Bishop occupies the space at 4th Street and South Walnut that was formerly The Cinemat, a cult video rental shop and theater.
Some of the groups that have played The Bishop include Bloomington favorites Kentucky Nightmare, The Delicious, husband&wife, and Tortoise, as well as dozens of indie rock bands from around the country.