The Wolf is howling again |

The Wolf is howling again

Stewart Oksenhorn

The Howling Wolf got off to a flying start last weekend at its new location, at the old home of the Flying Dog Brew Pub.

On Saturday night, one day after coming to a lease agreement for its new space, some 250 people – more than twice the capacity of the old Wolf – came through the doors for the Barbacks’ Ball.

The leaders of the Wolf pack – owners Rob and Steve Murdock and manager Paul Levine – see the opening night success as an omen of things to come. They plan to present more nights of music, bigger acts and a wider array of styles at the new space.

“We love the new space,” said Rob Murdock. “We can have a lot bigger acts – bigger ska bands, bigger swing bands. We can do a lot of those bands we could afford before, but just couldn’t fit.”

Murdock added that, because of the increased capacity, the Wolf will be able to offer lower admission prices. He began by instituting the policy that there will be no cover charges for local bands.

The new spot will also give the Howling Wolf the opportunity to get back into the restaurant business. The Wolf will continue to serve lunch and dinner in the manner of the Flying Dog. And the beer, of course, is not flying away: Flying Dog owner George Stranahan (a co-owner of The Aspen Times) will continue to run his beer operations at the brewery. In combining the attributes of the Dog and the Wolf, Murdock sees a good fit.

“We thought there was a lot of synergy between what [Stranahan] does and what we do,” said Murdock. “They did real good for lunch and dinner. They did all their business before 10 [p.m.]; we did all ours after 10.”

The Murdocks hope everybody in their new neighborhood is as positive as they are about the move. Already, due to the concerns of neighboring business owners and spurred on by what Rob Murdock called “sensational headlines and inaccurate articles” in the Daily News, the Wolf’s landlords added a clause to the lease that activity at the club must cease at 2 a.m. nightly. That restriction will curtail the late-night activities for which the Wolf has become known.

They’ve “made it impossible for us to ever do late-night music. Probably ever,” said Murdock. “We were always known as a place where you could find late-night music. When we get in the mood, we want everyone to have a good time.

“It’s bullshit to have to cut off a show when a band wants to keep playing. Our freedom to just develop a good night on its own, like with the guys from Sonia Dada, or Lyle Lovett, is just gone. Those times can no longer live.”

Aside from the limited concerns from neighbors, the Wolf seems to be getting a warm reception at its new Cooper Avenue Mall location. Murdock said he had heard of no other complaints accompanying the move toward the center of downtown Aspen.

The Wolf certainly was welcomed by Stranahan. “George was so cooperative in making it work,” said Murdock. “He offered very flexible terms so it would work, because he so wanted so much to keep it a local institution.

“While some others have looked only negatively on us, a lot of people like George have chosen to look at the positive. We share a certain sense of irreverence and a certain hatred for whiners.”

The Wolf plans to reopen bar operations on May 1, with a Cinco de Mayo bash as its next big event. Food service should resume sometime thereafter. Aside from the addition of a stage, no major renovations to the space are planned until at least after the summer.

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