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As in-person concerts largely remain on hold, Fort Collins has seen its first music venue casualty from COVID-19.
Hodi’s Half Note, which has been a fixture of the Fort Collins music scene since its predecessor — The Starlight — opened at 167 N. College Ave. in 1996, will not reopen due to pandemic-related restrictions, owner Dan Mladenik told the Coloradoan on Monday.
The venue, which was sold and reopened in 2006 as Hodi’s Half Note, closed amid a COVID-19 business shutdown in mid-March. It’s last show was indie rock band The Unlikely Candidates on March 14, Mladenik said.
Mladenik said he initially hoped the closure would only last a couple of months. As time passed, that hope got further and further away. Concerts, as we once knew them, likely won’t be able to start back up until next year, Mladenik said.
“It just didn’t seem very likely I’d be able to open up soon, and it still doesn’t,” Mladenik said.
But life will move on for the 5,000-square-foot location Hodi’s Half Note has called home for the past 13 years. It’s currently on the market for $2.4 million and has recently been leased by Mladenik to a new tenant.
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David Rodriguez, a local comic and comedy show producer, plans to open The Comedy Fort there in 2021 — bringing a stand-alone comedy club to Fort Collins for the first time since Comedy Works shuttered its Old Town Square location 30 years ago.
Noting that it’s a tough time for live entertainment, Rodriguez said he’s hoping to open The Comedy Fort in January after some minor changes to the building. Rodriguez plans to convert the two existing bars in Hodi’s Half Note into separate spaces with its back bar serving an enclosed comedy showroom and its other serving a separate space for entertainment like live music.
If able to seat at full capacity, The Comedy Fort will be able to fit 150 customers and will be modeled after The Comedy Cellar in New York City, Rodriguez said.
Big headliners will take The Comedy Fort stage on Friday and Saturday nights with nontraditional comedy options, like improv, being reserved for Sundays, Rodriguez said. Rodriguez plans to keep the standing Monday open mic comedy night Hodi’s Half Note has hosted for years.
He also has plans for comedy showcases that heavily feature local and Colorado acts, he said.
With many comics in a holding pattern — forced, like Rodriguez, to perform drive-in parking lot shows or via Zoom until live shows are safe again — Rodriguez said The Comedy Fort news has created some anticipation. The Comedy Fort has been in the works since last year when supporters donated about $20,000 during a crowdfunding campaign to launch the club.
“Everyone’s excited and supportive,” Rodriguez said. “In these uncertain times, which is what we’ve heard a million times, it was a tough decision to sign a contract saying we would open a business. But I wanted to keep Hodi’s in the realm of live entertainment. I wanted to carry that on.”
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“That’s one of the cool things about this deal,” Mladenik said of his decision to lease the space to Rodriguez. “I’m happy it’s staying a stage.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Mladenik said he won’t be able to host any kind of farewell show at Hodi’s Half Note. Instead, he’s busy transitioning into his new job at Mishawaka Amphitheater, where’s he’s booking shows and starting to help manage the riverside music venue.
“I think everybody was super bummed,” Mladenik said of the general reaction to the Hodi’s Half Note’s closure. “People just have a deep connection with that location, with the venue, with its name … but I think people understand.”
“It’s still the arts, it’s still something for Fort Collins,” Mladenik added. “I’m glad it turned out this way.”
Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a subscription to the Coloradoan today.
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