Surely by now you've heard that another Santa Fe venue has shut its doors.

Dance club/gay-ish bar/DJ haven Rouge Cat quietly ceased business last week. Many within the music community are left to face yet another round of questions like, Why is it so difficult for a venue to operate in a town where everyone constantly bemoans the lack of nighttime activity? Or, How could a place that consistently hosted the best in local and touring DJ talent not stay open when our scene so clearly prizes this kind of entertainment? Rouge Cat owner Heidi Spar has remained mum when it comes to the specifics, but it's plain enough to glean how money woes in addition to the sheer amount of work required to keep a venue running simply trumped the club's ability to operate successfully.

It isn't like local businesspeople didn't try to step up and keep Rouge Cat running in one form or another, either. According to resident DJ Oona Bender, "There were about six different people who tried to buy the [business] but couldn't get financing, which is understandable even though the ownership wasn't looking for much beyond the cost of the liquor license."

It could be that Santa Fe seems awfully fond of the restaurant first, music second business model and Rouge Cat was solely a nightclub. Oona tells SFR that food service would have been nice, but still maintains that the club was opened to cater to a very specific niche.

"We knew from the get-go that we weren't going to try to be for everybody, but we stuck with it because the minute you start losing yourself, people will lose interest," she says.

DJ John Luna, who hosted his fair share of Rouge Cat events, speculates that hardship wrought by the recession played a major role.

"With rent downtown and a bad economy it's hard to keep a club open, especially if you don't serve food," he says.

Rouge Cat: after and before. The club on the 100 block of W Marcy Street that hosted many a happening night now lies dormant.
Rouge Cat: after and before. The club on the 100 block of W Marcy Street that hosted many a happening night now lies dormant. / JOHN LUNA

Luna is fortunate enough to have presided over Friday nights at The Den at Coyote Café for the last two years, but for many others who frequently played Rouge Cat, the future may entail a more nomadic game plan. Not that there's anything wrong with electronic artists roaming the land, it's more like Rouge Cat's insanely expensive/insanely awesome sound system seemed a perfect fit for DJs.

"Rouge Cat was very supportive when I started hosting my own independent monthly dance party, but I think that events and dance parties need the ability to grow or shrink to handle what people want," Emily Montoya aka DJ Dirt Girl says. "But that may not be such a great thing for the clubs that host them and that have to makmoney."

This suggests Santa Fe often faces a don'tknow-what-you've-got-till-it's-gone nightlife conundrum. Just look at The Sticky's regular gig at Rouge Cat; everybody loved them and they're a great band, but it wasn't until they quit that anyone truly seemed concerned over what they were up to.

And though Rouge Cat's closure is still fresh enough to sting, it is sadly nothing new for the venue landscape of Santa Fe. Places like Corazón, The Paramount, Club West, Paolo Soleri Ampitheater, Club Luna, Club Alegria and others make up a long list of amazing spaces that have closed, which proves even the most beloved concert space faces hurdles when it comes to keeping it fresh or engaging in addition to all the boring money stuff.

Still, Bender remains proud of what Rouge Cat accomplished.

"We had a good four years in that space and did what we did well, so we'll just have to wait and see what sort of venue rises next," she says. "I'm starting to think that at this point you'd have to be crazy to open a music venue in this town, though."

Oona can next be seen at DJ Melanie Moore's upcoming event, Sex on Vinyl-Nine Lives Feb. 8. The annual electronic music collaboration also boasts an appearance from Grammy-winning DJ, The Scumfrog. In light of Rouge Cat's sudden demise, SOV has been moved to The Lodge.



8 pm Saturday, Feb. 8. $10

The Lodge, 750 N St. Francis Drive