Sudden closure of downtown Columbia venue could impact community music scene

Jun 9, 2014

Credit Ashley Reese / KBIA

The sudden closure of a downtown Columbia bar has set off speculation on social media and raised questions in the community. The Blue Fugue, located on S. 9th St. in Columbia,  has been a staple to the city’s music scene, hosting a variety of live bands and DJs, including its Friday night “Fire N Ice” Latin dance parties.

But the owners of the bar have yet to confirm that the venue has officially closed.

The owners and manager of the Blue Fugue have been unreachable by reporters. The business phone line has been disconnected, its social media accounts have been taken offline and the Fugue has been left dark and empty. Not even people close to them have been able to get a straight answer about the bar’s closure.

The Fugue’s landlord, Brad Holt, who is also the owner of the neighboring Tiger Barbershop, said even he’s not sure of the bar’s status. He said he’s been in contact with the owners— but the contact is irregular and mostly just via text message.

“I know everyone’s been saying it, but the owners have not told me that they are closed for good,” Holt said.

He also said they’re almost two months behind on rent.

Walt “Moondog” Goodman, whose band La Movida has played weekly at the Fugue for four years, said the bar’s manager Jason Schrick notified him about the bar’s closure about 24 hours before his band planned to play there on Friday, May 30.

“I think it closed to take a night off for Memorial Day and then just kind of didn’t open again unfortunately,” Goodman said.

He said Schrick did not give him the whole story, but Goodman feels that’s partially because the owners themselves aren’t entirely sure what’s going to happen. He said he believes they’re trying to decide whether or not it’s time to call it quits.

“If there’s a way, I think… some version of the current owners and perhaps Jason would probably be looking to reopen, which would be great,” Goodman said.

The City of Columbia’s Financial Department’s Business Services and Pension Manager Janice Finley said the Blue Fugue failed to renew both its liquor and business licenses this year. She said this is the first time they’ve failed to renew these licenses.

Goodman said his band ended up playing at a new venue, Mi Tierra Mexican Grill and Cantina on Old 63. He said the venue is in much better repair than the Fugue and he knows that could help his band, but he said it’s just not the same.

“To me, [the Fugue] was kind of like a pirate ship. It was old, made out of wood, with battle scars, cannon ball holes in the wood and tired sails, but it still has a certain charm and beauty,” he said.

Part of that charm could be because the Fugue has turned into less of a venue and more of a home to Goodman over the years.

“And I think there are a lot of people that felt the same- a lot of die-hards who just have kind of found that place as an artistic, cultural home of sorts and just would’ve done anything they could to keep it that way,” he said.

Goodman said his band has built a decent following at the Fugue, with their Friday night performances receiving a loyal turnout of about 100-150 people a week, sometimes 200. He says he doesn’t believe that’s specific to his band but rather the Fugue became a home for much of mid-Missouri’s music scene.

If the Blue Fugue remains closed, Goodman said La Movida will continue to seek new venues and will post the locations on their Facebook page.