Robert “Boot” Schuh, who owned a Downtown dive bar later busted as one of Madison’s most notorious drug dens, and then found redemption in prison, died Tuesday, September 5, 2017 in California. He was 67.
Schuh, who ran Jocko’s Rocket Ship from 1975 until police shut it down following a raid in December 1999, suffered a fatal medical incident while driving his car in Redwood City, according to longtime friend Todd Rothbard.
The raid on the bar resulted in federal drug convictions of four bartenders and four dealers. Seven Madison firefighters were disciplined, but not charged, after investigators learned they frequented the establishment. For his involvement, Schuh served nearly a decade in prison.
After prison, Schuh went to work for Rothbard, whom he had known since the two met in 1969 at the Sigma Chi fraternity at UW-Madison. Rothbard, an attorney in Santa Clara, California, hired Schuh to oversee several young couriers.
“He was like a dad to those kids,” Rothbard said. “You wouldn’t think a guy who went through what he did would be a good role model, but he was.”
Schuh was able to model what a dedicated and fastidious employee looked like, Rothbard said. But he was also a bit of an anti-model, the lesson being: Stay out of trouble or you’ll go to jail like me.
Schuh grew up in Whitefish Bay and moved to Madison to attend UW-Madison. After college, he bought Jocko’s, 430 W. Gilman St., now the Blue Velvet Lounge.
In federal prison, Schuh learned to type, tutored other inmates as they prepared to get their high school equivalency degrees and enrolled in an anti-drug program. He also refereed sporting events.
Rothbard said Schuh matured during his prison sentence, but he kept his positive nature.
“He had a unique personality,” Rothbard said. “He was always somewhat happy-go-lucky and somewhat upbeat.”