Hardback Cafe re-invents itself…again

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 In the age of COVID-19, the venerable Hardback Cafe has had to reinvent itself yet again. The entertainment venue at 920 NW 2nd St. in the Grove Street neighborhood has reopened as Undertown Drive Through Market, selling milk, eggs, cigarettes, coffee and cans of beer.

Owner Alan Bushnell said opening as a convenience store was the only way to operate as an “essential” business.


“Obviously the bands and the bar thing are not going to be reopening for a long time so I thought I’d offer convenience store goods,” Bushnell said. “I’m also going to try and sell produce from local people. It’s low-key.”

Undertown Drive Through Market is open weekdays 2-7 p.m. and Saturdays 4-9 p.m. A half-gallon of organic milk is $5 as is a flat of 18 organic eggs. A can of Pabst Blue Ribbon is $3 and can be consumed on the front patio. Hardback Cafe closed on March 16th, forcing the venue to cancel dozens of live shows. 

 Bushnell opened the original Hardback Cafe in 1989 in downtown Gainesville, adjacent to the Hippodrome Theatre. In 2015, he reopened the club on West University Avenue before relocating to its current location two years ago.

Hardback shares space with Samurai Skateshop and is just around the corner from Working Food and Cypress & Grove Brewing Co. 

Bushnell, a lawyer, said he has spent the first six weeks of the coronavirus scare isolated, working on a garden and doing home repairs.

“But then that got old,” he said. He said he is fortunate that he has been able to keep up with the rent at Hardback through a GoFundMe page. “I’m so grateful to all the fans of the Hardback — they’ve really come through.” 

This is the latest in a series of articles focusing on downtown businesses and how they’re coping with the coronavirus pandemic. We urge everyone to support locally owned businesses while also staying safe. Please share this post with your Facebook friends. If you have a suggestion for a business to spotlight, please send an email to gainesvilledowntown@yahoo.com.

About the Author

Noel Leroux is the publisher of gainesvilledowntown.com, a website dedicated to covering all things downtown. His mission is to inform, entertain and engage readers with compelling articles about arts, entertainment, and the foodie scene in Gainesville.

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