In the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 13, an estimated 30 to 40 patrons of downtown's Vue nightclub erupted into a fight. When police arrived, they also had to disperse an uncooperative crowd of 200 to 300 people outside the club.
It won't happen again. At least not at the Vue.
Owners Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli closed the Vue for good on Jan. 14, though Sam Guadagnoli will not say whether the recent violence led to the closing. A peek through the popular club's windows this week reveals remodeling already in progress.
So what's next? Sam Guadagnoli says interested parties have jointly decided not to release details for two weeks.
"I want to tell you," he says. "I want to tell you all about it. I want to tell you how exciting it is."
Guadagnoli's lips may be sealed, but not everyone is holding his tongue.
City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher says he heard the club would become a new incarnation of Cowboys, the Guadagnolis' popular country-western bar, which has long been located on Palmer Park Boulevard.
Police Cmdr. Kurt Pillard seems equally unaware of the Guadagnolis' cloak of secrecy.
"It's my understanding," he says, "that what used to be the Vue will be renovated, and what used to be Cowboys will be renovated, and they'll flip-flop."
Back in 2006, Sam Guadagnoli told then-Gazette reporter Jim Bainbridge that he was scouting East Woodmen Road, Black Forest, Falcon and downtown for another Cowboys site.
"We definitely want to open a second Cowboys," Sam Guadagnoli said at the time.
The Guadagnolis, who count Rum Bay, Blondie's, the Red Martini and Sam's World's Smallest Bar among other holdings, also are part of the team developing downtown's planned 22-story Cooper Tower. They're known for frequent changes to their establishments.
The Vue opened in 2005 and featured clubs within clubs each themed with modern, Las Vegas-inspired decor. At the time, the Guadagnolis were funneling millions downtown to create the Vue, open Blondie's (and another bar that since has been sold), and make changes to many of their other bars, largely to accommodate smokers displaced by the state ban.
Such large-scale investments were nothing new for the Guadagnolis, who also dumped big bucks into the Vue's predecessor, the industrial-style Tequila's, which lasted about five years.
The frequent changes don't appear to be the result of flawed business models; any observer could tell you the Guadagnolis' clubs pull in the crowds. In fact, if anything, they may be too good at doing that.
Pillard says that in 2007, the Vue, Rum Bay and Eden (which is not owned by the Guadagnolis and is now 13 Pure) likely made more calls to police than any other businesses in the Gold Hill police district: 270, 309 and 207, respectively. That puts a lot of stress on the department, Pillard says. Because of that, he's been meeting regularly since 2006 with downtown club owners.
Pillard says he wants better lighting, earlier closures of bars and clubs, and an ordinance that requires bar owners to mop their patrons' vomit off the sidewalk. He also wants bar owners to let police know about crime trends.
But realistically, Pillard doesn't think that arrests of bar-goers for assaults, rapes, theft, narcotics, drunk driving and even murders will go away. The crime comes with nightlife.
"I think that type of activity has been ingrained in law enforcement since the days of Wyatt Earp," Pillard says. "People go to bars, they drink to excess and they call the police."
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