Aly Mueller, 23, spins hula hoops at an Ambience meeting at the Thomas Center. Ambience is a group for people who practice flow arts, which is a performance art involving spinning lights and objects to music. Bradley Williams / WUFT News
On March 29, The Motor Room closed its doors on seven years of trendy dance music, light-spinning and, to many, what felt like family.
The Motor Room, a Gainesville club originally named Spannk, was home to Saturday night’s Neon Liger. Neon Liger, a dance party that played whatever genre was on the rise, was its most popular event.
Jimbo Rountree, 28, co-owner and bartender at Motor Room, said various factors contributed to its closing.
“When this started seven years ago, there wasn’t many dance nights,” Rountree said. “Over time, the market got over-saturated. The bubble hit, and people were over dance nights in general.”
When it closed, The Motor Room was owned by Rountree, originally a doorman, and Vijay Seixas, who also deejayed.
Part of the club’s struggle was that its money only came from being open a few nights a week, as opposed to other bars that have daytime restaurants. Many properties in downtown Gainesville are also owned by people who manage multiple properties, unlike The Motor Room.
With its closing, the Gainesville flow arts community, which is largely centered around loud music and dark atmospheres, will be hit particularly hard.
Kyle Hoffman, 21, is a University of Florida student and the manager and leader of Ambience, a group focused on flow arts.
“You have this creative outlet,” Hoffman said. “You’re creating a link to the music and the people around you.”
Flow arts is a category of performance art that involves moving lights or objects to the beat of music. Some flow arts include hula hoops, gloves with LED lights in the fingers and poi, which is spinning objects like LED balls or fire on strings.
Aly Mueller, 23, is a member of Ambience and was a patron of The Motor Room for many years.
“A lot of places are small, and there’s just no room for flow arts,” Mueller said. “I’ve hoped for a new venue to come. I went to Neon Liger for five or six years. It’s my home. It’s my (electronic dance music) community.”
When Rountree and Seixas tried to negotiate their rent with the landlord through a third party, the landlord declined and said he could find another club to take its place, Rountree said.
“We had to leave a lot of things behind,” Rountree said. “Such as the bar and a few coolers and an industrial ice machine, so my understanding is that I’m sure the landlord is going to try to flip it to some other people who will try to turn it into a club.”
Hoffman, who grew up hearing his mom’s Moby CDs in her car, said Ambience will still have regular meetings and try to coordinate meeting up at friends’ houses.
“It’s a pretty constructive hobby,” Hoffman said. “Seeing other people’s progress is inspiring. I’ve been doing it for years, and I still get giddy seeing beginners getting the basics.”
Sam Booth, 18, said places like Orlando, Tampa and Daytona have clubs where people can go and practice flow arts, unlike Gainesville.
She said Simon’s, a Gainesville night club, only allows flow arts if a big show comes through town; however, it gets too crowded and people will walk right into the performance, ruining the flow art.
Rountree said he remembers knowing there was something magical about The Motor Room well before he became an owner. When he was a doorman, he said he saw people dancing on the AC units because the club was so full.
“People were having such a good time,” Rountree said. “It dawned on me at that point that this was way bigger than I thought.”
Though closing, not everything must go.
Seixas said he plans on keeping The Deep End, The Motor Room’s Friday night event, alive. The event focuses on a dark environment, deep house music and chill vibes.
“The Deep End will be mobile and will be once a month,” Seixas said. “It won’t be locked down to one particular venue.”
The first new Deep End event will be held at 2nd Street Speakeasy on Saturday, April 25.
“It’s really sad seeing something you poured so much into close,” Rountree said. “But at the end of the day, you think about it like, ‘How many years did you want?’ I’m so glad it happened to me and Vijay and the crazy nights we were a part of.”