Jeff Smokevitch, the current owner of the popular late night venue for the past two years and co-owner of Brown Dog Pizza, is not renewing his lease with the building’s owner at the end of this month and will be leaving the Moon late November.
Smokevitch cited a number of reasons for not renewing a lease with the landowner (who also owns the Moon’s name) but said that splitting his time between the Moon and the Brown Dog has been a daunting task.
“We took a long term lease with the Brown Dog and with the Moon we are a little overwhelmed by both of them,” Smokevitch said in an interview Friday. “We scaled back a little on the Moon in terms of music and being open and then we just decided not to renew our lease because of the long-term lease we have at the Brown Dog.”
The uncertainty of the Moon’s future could be seen as a reflection of the struggles business owners face while trying to make it on main street.
“We have a really big rent that we probably shouldn’t have had,” Smokevitch said in retrospect. “There is property tax that is really out of hand for main street businesses and we had HOA dues that were really high. We are actually paying a lot more for the downstairs basement than we are for the pizza place. The lease that we signed was definitely not in our favor.”
According to Smokevitch, his current manager is looking at taking over the lease and the nightclub but nothing has been finalized yet. He hopes that whoever takes over the Moon will have the time to do it right.
“There are definitely people looking at it right now,” he said. “Our manager is looking at negotiating for the lease. What I found is that it is a lot different being a customer of a nightclub than being the owner of a nightclub. The biggest thing was getting the music and marketing the music and then putting a guarantee on it and then not having a lot of customers show up and then eventually losing out on the show. We had a difficult time trying to get a crowd in there.”
Smokevitch also said that the nightclub business in Telluride is very unpredictable. Recently, when the Moon hosted the band Lord Loves a Working Man during a slow season in Telluride, he had one of his biggest nights of the year.
“It’s really hard to predict,” Smokevitch said. “It could be successful, but somebody really has to put money into promotions. When we had the first show [two years ago] it was a sellout show. We had people that came down to the Moon who had not been there in 25 years.
“I talk to musicians and they all want to come to the Moon and play. It is legendary in the musician’s world around the country,” he added.
“We are definitely going to have a blowout week,” he said. “We are going to have a DJ and a big band come in for our last show, which we haven’t confirmed yet. I would love to see the Moon keep going on and I would love to see our manager take it over and then I would love to get down there as a customer too. It is a great late-night spot. The Moon is great for this town and I hope it can keep going for this town. It really brings national musicians to Telluride.”