CREATED Jul 31, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The rumors are true: one of Tucson’s most famous watering holes has run dry, leaving employees in the lurch and party people wondering why. So what happened to the Old Pueblo’s iconic nightclub? 9 On Your Side gets answers about Cactus Moon's closing and finds other nighttime institutions are dropping like flies this year.
“I would describe it as a Disneyland of entertainment right here in Tucson,” said Duhamel Cassell, a former DJ at Cactus Moon, which is near Broadway and Craycroft. “It was a place that I think that if you were 21 or 91, you'd be able to go there and have a wonderful time.”
On Saturday night and Sunday early morning, without notice to customers and staff, the 23-year-old club served its last drink and staff told 9 On Your Side they were let go. Cassell, also known as DJ Du, said they numbered nearly 40 and he's now helping some of them find new jobs at local clubs and restaurants.
What happened? Part owner Gary Graham said it was the rough economy. He declined to go on camera, but said, ultimately, not enough people were coming to the club because they don’t have the money to.
“The numbers just weren’t there,” Graham told 9 On Your Side over the phone. He also cited rising insurance fees, increasing operating costs and other factors.
George Larsen, the owner of the property the nightclub sits on and the building, told 9 On Your Side the club hadn't paid its rent in months and it had notice to pay up or leave by the end of July. Larsen is part of Larsen Baker real estate firm. Graham said the club did not get behind on rent.
Graham, of Graham Brothers Entertainment, said he owns 27 venues across 13 states and had to close seven of them in the past year for the same reason as Cactus Moon.
Closing clubs is a trend visible in Tucson. Wildcat House on North Stone Avenue, open for 35 years, closed in April. Owners cited economic and financial problems in a statement online.
Shark Nightclub on East Congress Street also closed recently. Other venues have reduced their hours or altered their businesses in some way to stay open.
“It's kind of sad to see them go, quite frankly,” said Luke Cusack about Cactus Moon’s closing. 9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen asked him, “Are you surprised?” “Not in particular,” he answered.
Cusack helped open Cactus Moon, now co-owns Redline Sports Grill/RPM Nightclub and said he believes the economy closed Cactus Moon. He also pointed to stiff competition from national chains and rising employee minimum wages, among other factors.
Keen asked him, “Haven't things gotten better or have they not gotten better?” “I don't think they've gotten better,” Cusack said. “I think it's going to be awhile till they do get better. I think we're still going to look at a three- or four-year trickledown effect.”
“As a Tucsonan, can I expect more of this to come?” Keen asked Cusack. “I think you can. I definitely think you can,” he said.
Since Cactus Moon closed a few days ago, competing clubs have moved in to grab the crowds that used to go there. Several places now offer music and deals similar to Cactus Moon, hoping the fan base now visits them.