Red Kat Café just wants to purrWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Scott believes in Toledo.
If he didn’t, he would not have gotten back in the bar business, not taken a chance on a struggling venue and not booked national recording artists to play the club.
But after about three weeks with his doors open, the manager of the Red Kat Music Café is wondering if Toledo believes in him and what he has added to the Northwest Ohio entertainment scene.
“I feel strong about it because we’re the only one of its kind in Toledo,” Scott said of the club, which features live adult contemporary and jazz acts every Thursday through Saturday. “Once we reach a strong supporting core, I think we’ll have regulars every week.”
Attracting patrons — let alone regulars — has been a challenge, Scott said. About 150 to 200 people visited the Red Kat each of its first two weekends. Though Scott admitted those numbers were not horrible, he said they were not enough to support the costs that went along with hosting national artists. He said the club lost about $13,000 those weekends combined due to poor attendance. A crowd of about 350 to 500 per weekend, Scott said, would provide the financial support needed to operate.
“I know there’s a need for this and I know there’s a want for this,” Scott said. “I know that the people are out there; we just have to reach them.”
Success at the club’s location at Reynolds Road and Heatherdowns Boulevard might be hard to come by. The building, which is owned by Toledo nightclub mogul Kip Diacou, has struggled the past few years to stay afloat. In that period it has changed names and themes multiple times.
Diacou declined to comment for this article.
Though a location with such an unpleasant history might discourage others from trying their hands in the ever-risky bar and restaurant business, Scott said he believes the 14,000-square-foot building that houses the Red Kat could be perfect if people give it a try.
“You have to experience it in order to accept it and appreciate it,” Scott said. “Once you experience it, you will, without a doubt, be a regular at this club.”
Restaurateur Tom Cousino knows what it is like to be the new kid in Toledo’s competitive nightclub scene. Cousino opened his now-popular nightspot Sin in November 2003 to small crowds the first month and a half in business, he said. Now, Sin is one of the toughest places to get into on a Saturday night with attendance as high as 1,000 an evening, he said.
The keys to Sin’s success, Cousino said, were promotion and the buzz created through word of mouth.
“You have to have people to draw people,” he said. “You can have the most chic club in the world, but if there’s nobody in it, it’s not worth anything.
Cousino said the entertainment market in Toledo is not the easiest to break through.
“I find Toledo to be a tough market as far as supporting right now,” he said. “You can try different things and try to bring nice venues to Toledo, but not always is it appreciated and patronized.
“Economy-wise, we’re not one of the cities that’s on fire.”
Joan Russell, co-owner of Murphy’s Place, a Downtown jazz club that opened in its first location in 1991, said attracting people to a venue that specializes in music more appealing to a mature audience can be difficult, especially when the music is jazz.
“In jazz, it’s always a challenge,” Russell said. “There’s not a huge market for jazz nowadays.”
Though crowds at Murphy’s Place aren’t huge, Russell said she is surprised at the number of young people that frequent the club.
“We have many, many younger people now coming to listen to the kind of music that we present,” she said.
Attracting younger crowds is something Scott said he hopes to accomplish with the Red Kat. He plans to do that by promoting the venue more through several media outlets, particularly popular radio stations. Anyone interested in hearing good music is welcome to give the club a try, he said.
“There’s something for you — whether you’re 21 or 81 — to dance to before, after and during each set,” Scott said.
Other Toledo nightspots, Scott said, have found success copying of one another and catering to young people. He said he hopes to find an audience by offering something different.
“The key in Toledo is copying off everyone else kind of like the radio stations in Toledo — they all sound alike,” Scott said. “We’re reaching some of the people that don’t go out anymore because they’ve had no place to go,” he said.