The Penny Arcade is one of the most revered music clubs in Rochester history, as well as one of the longest-running. Bon Jovi, Iggy Pop, and Joan Jett all played the Arcade, but the real star of The Penny Arcade was founder and longtime owner Greg Sullivan (1947-2014), who has been called “Rochester’s Music Man.” He opened the club on Lake Avenue in Charlotte fresh out of college in 1973.
The Arcade quickly became a favorite among the longhaired, hard-rocking crowds of the 1970s. And when Sullivan sold it for his time in 2000, there were three decades of local rockers who knew they had hit it big when they played the Arcade’s stage. Many believe no other local club had such influence upon Rochester’s music culture. Democrat and Chronicle music critic Jeff Spevak labeled the club the city’s “longtime temple of loud” and said the Arcade might have had the best sound system in the city.
Sullivan was a friend and mentor to musicians, booking bands on their way up AND on their way down. Many musicians say Sullivan gave them their first chance and through his support of the local music scene had an immeasurable impact on the touring and recording careers of countless musicians. Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm said The Penny Arcade was “THE place for rock bands to cut their teeth” because Sullivan’s support for local musicians. While he also had a passion for trains and corvettes, every night he was entrenched in the Rochester music scene. Sullivan died in 2014 at age 67 of a heart attack and musicians have kept his memory alive with musical tributes concerts.
A plaque on the front of the now-closed Penny Arcade reads:
“In memory of Greg Sullivan
Founder of the Penny Arcade
Rochester’s Rock Concert Night Club”