Now, less than six months later, people are saying the same thing about the death of Fat Tuesday's. Yes, the club was responsible for housing an inhuman percentage of the concerts in Spokane. We know all that. We also know this, though: Fat Tuesday's will close after the farewell show tomorrow (not on July 15 as had been previously speculated) and it won't open again. That's sad, but, in the words of that drunk Major from Dances With Wolves, "nobody can do anything about it."
So rather than mourning its death -- which can be cathartic, but not really constructive -- why not celebrate how Fat Tuesday's lived? Or, more properly, how its spirit might live once again in the form of another downtown concert hole. To that end, we asked Fat Tuesday's owner, Ken Dupree, not what went wrong, but what could go right. Could a guy with the right space, the right price points, the right license and the right sound system could make a go of it. The answer, in his mind, is yes.
"It could be a lucrative," says Dupree. "I just never treated it like a business." There's certainly demand, which is what persuaded him to reopen after the original Fat Tuesday's in the Riverwalk complex shut down. "There was still that void, and I still had bands calling me." All it would take above what he's already done, says Dupree, is time and flexibility. Problem is, those are the only two things he's short on.
"It's 6,500 square feet, so if you had someone young and ambitious who wanted to try all the open mic, karaoke, dance night, ladies night stuff and fit that niche, that'd work great," he believes. "If someone wanted to run it like a small version of the Big Easy, where you have an early show and then the dance club, that would work."
Aside from opening the place more often and keeping it open later, Dupree says another essential element would be seeking out bands, which he never really had time to do. "Unless someone e-mails me, I don't really go out of my way. If there was someone who wanted to take the time and make some calls, and pursue shows rather than just letting the shows come to them, they could have a heck of a venue."
Also, with a venue that size in a town like Spokane, you can't afford to be a specialist: "You'd have to get something that fills the place on nights you don't have a show because you obviously can't do seven shows a week." But flexibility means more than just offering all ages. Sometimes, Dupree says, it means kicking the kids out, or going half and half: having an early show for the under-21 set and going 21-and-older after 10 pm.
"People want to be up front with their beer," he says, "so a lot of the [bands that cater to] 21 and over don't like playing here. They'll book a 21-and-over show at the Spread or the Blvd." If Fat Tuesday's as it is now was staying afloat, these other revenue streams (he also says he'd take a whirl at serving food), Dupree estimates, would be more than enough to make the business profitable. "If I was 21 again, I would die to have a business like this."
All this speculation about who might fill Fat Tuesday's size 200+ shoes ignores the one club who already played it like Van Halen, positioning itself right now to fill the power chord vacuum left by Tuesday's. The Blvd. just inaugurated its 18-and-older pit, a little corral where those old enough to die in battle but not old enough to drink can catch shows and order Shirley Temples.
And that's a start, but it does nothing for the high schoolers who tool around outside Rock, and who used to fill Fat Tuesday's. And it certainly doesn't help independent promoters like RAWK, says Dale Strom, who worked with Dupree to put on alcohol-free shows in the early evenings. "I'm no teetotaler, but having alchohol everywhere with kids that age around goes against [RAWK's] calling."
For a true all-ages experience, in the meantime you've got Rock Coffee, the Shop, the Empyrean and the Big Dipper whenever someone rents it out, but those places don't have anywhere near the size of Fat Tuesday's. There's the Met, but the rent's up and you have to bring your own sound. Same with the Masonic Temple, which Strom says he's considering, but it would take "a special [read: huge] show and careful budgeting" to pull off. The Service Station is a nice venue from a promoter's point of view, says Strom, but "they charge Big Easy rates." So they're expensive, and way outside the downtown core. Strom has yet to find a place with the sound, licenses and prices he used to find at Fat Tuesday's.
The best chance of a mid-range venue like that succeeding, then, is to be able to cater to everyone, the way Dupree's place did, but more so and with greater flexibility. Which brings us to the most tantalizing development in the story. There might be outside interest in buying the building that houses Fat Tuesday's.
"There's actually a group of two investors from Seattle that the drummer [Mike McClung] from Coretta Scott brought over the other day who are actually interested in buying it and leaving it as a music venue," says Strom.
Owning the place, rather than renting, would definitely push prices down, Dupree says, making the venue both more affordable for promoters and more lucrative.
What we need, then, is exactly what we might get. That'd be nice.
Fat Tuesday's Farewell Show will feature Mourning After, Seaweed Jack, Fine For Now and a special guest so good they wouldn't let us print it on Friday, June 30 at 7 pm. Tickets: $7; $10 at the door. Visit: www.fatconcerts.com