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Wolf, Flying Dog may join forces

John Colson

The Howling Wolf nightclub will no longer exist in its currentlocation after the end of this ski season.And by the opening of the summer season, the Flying Dog Brew Pubmay be quite a different kind of place than it is today.That’s because the two operations may merge, according to managementat both businesses.”Nothing will happen until after the ski lifts close,” said HowlingWolf manager Paul Levine on Monday, adding that “at the end ofthis ski season, we will no longer be able to operate at 316 E.Hopkins, due to financial considerations.” He declined to givespecifics about the cost of renting the building.Levine, who founded the nightclub four years ago with a partner,is now a manager of the club for its present owners, Rob and SteveMurdock. He said the high rent, added to the inappropriate natureof the building itself, have led to this decision.”For the type of operation that we run, the space is much toosmall … despite its cuteness and character,” Levine said. So,he said, the Howling Wolf may join forces with the Flying DogBrew Pub, located downstairs at the corner of Cooper Avenue andGalena Street, if negotiations currently under way bear fruit.”We’re just trying to stop the bleeding,” added Steve Murdock,referring to the high rents and cost of making improvements onthe “antique building” that houses the Wolf.Levine said the Wolf currently has two and a half years left onits lease for the Hopkins Avenue location, and that talks havebegun to see if an agreement can be reached to allow the Wolfto move out.At the same time, Levine said, negotiations have been under waywith Flying Dog owner George Stranahan about grafting the HowlingWolf nightclub onto Stranahan’s restaurant and bar operation.The new club would focus more on live entertainment and less onoffering an extensive restaurant menu.Stranahan, also a part-owner of The Aspen Times, voiced optimismabout the proposed partnership.”It sounds like a wonderful marriage, doesn’t it?” he said.Stranahan said the closing of the deal is scheduled for April6, and that so far the negotiations have gone smoothly.”We have encountered no problems,” he said, adding that from hisperspective, the partnership makes sense.”If you’re going to have music, you probably need to have food,”he said. However, food service would likely be scaled back fromthe full restaurant that now operates at the Dog. Stranahan saidhe plans to close the restaurant for the off-season, and predictedthat some of the Dog’s staff would not go to work for the Wolfif the transition goes through.Levine, echoing Stranahan’s sentiments, said he and the HowlingWolf management look forward to “reintroducing a restaurant operationto complement the nightclub.”Stranahan said the Flying Dog’s beer brewing facility would remainin place and that Flying Dog Beer would still be the trademarkbrew of the business.But, he continued, “We might also put out a Howling Wolf brew,who knows?” The name of the place, Stranahan said, would changeto the Howling Wolf.In addition to all the other changes, Levine said, the Murdocksare hoping to bring in another partner to help with the financialend of the business. Levine declined to identify who might bethat prospective partner.Stranahan said he has begun working with the family of the lateBurt Bidwell, owners of the building that houses the Flying Dog,and that they have been “friendly” to the idea of extending thelease on the space, which has only two years left to run.”It’s all contingent on getting a longer lease,” Stranahan said.Both Levine and Stranahan stressed that the deal is still in theformative stages.”It’s far from a done deal,” Levine emphasized. “There are many,many factors that could prevent this from happening.”Although he is looking forward to having a larger venue for thebands he books, Levine admitted that he is not completely happywith the idea of moving out of the Wolf’s present venue. The clubhas built quite a history during its short span at the locale.Besides bringing national music acts to town, the club has beenan art gallery, an occasional hotbed of political activity anda focal point of Aspen’s “twenty-something” crowd.”Obviously, it is a bittersweet thing,” Levine said of the plansto move.


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