Club Saratoga has ended its tradition of Saturday afternoon jazz.
The strip club located at 331 Canal Park Drive has offered free shows from 3-7 p.m. on Saturdays, a tradition spanning more than 30 years.
"It had run its course," said Club Saratoga co-owner Dan Lowe. The viability of jazz performances had been a matter of debate for the past couple of years. They didn't make money on it, but that was never the point, Lowe said. "If it had been the purpose, we would've stopped 16 years ago when we took over ownership."
The biggest problem is parking and traffic, and they had a rough September due to partial road closures this fall on Buchanan Street and the Lighthouse Parking Lot in Canal Park, he said.
Many regulars are older, and lack of nearby parking made it difficult for attendees to walk long distances, said Dan Fahland, a jazz regular who used to handle Saturday afternoon programming.
Parking and traffic congestion in Canal Park doesn't affect the rest of the business, Lowe said, because that entertainment is at night.
"I'm surprised it lasted this long to be honest," said Tony Staten, Club Saratoga manager. Attendance had been dwindling for some time.
That wasn't the case for their last hurrah on Saturday, which yielded the best turnout Staten had ever seen.
Recipients of the Jazz at the Toga newsletter were notified of the last show on Friday morning. On Saturday, the club was full by 2 p.m., and everyone was "shoulder to shoulder," Fahland said.
"I couldn't get off the stage," said Paul Ierino, who has played piano in the 'Toga Trio for decades. Asked if the group would play elsewhere, Ierino said, "See what happens."
If they do resume, he hopes it happens quickly. "After six months, there will be a need for it or there won't be."
Saturday afternoon jazz was discontinued for a month in 1985, but resumed soon after. The club brought in acts such as Twin Cities artists Billy Franze (he also played with Prince), Maurice Jacox, and locals Billy Barnard, Rich Mowers of Esko. Club Saratoga won't replace jazz with another musical act, but will fill that Saturday time slot with their regular entertainment.
Arlone Chapinski of Duluth has been a Jazz at the 'Toga devotee with her friends for about 20 years. "Sure, it was in a strip place but that didn't make any difference to us. We were there for the music and the people."
Chapinski heard about the change in the middle of last week, and she was there for Saturday's show. She was at a loss over the news. "What am I going to do on Saturday afternoon?" she said.
"You think about it, and you cry because there's so many people that we met that became friends through music, and music is a healer."
There are a lot of great artists here who need this kind of outlet and a lot of people willing to listen, Lowe said. He would love to see another venue to pick up the tradition.
Another regular jazz location is closing, albeit temporarily. Black Water Lounge, which hosts the Maxi Childs Trio, announced earlier this month that it is shutting down on New Year's Day, citing Superior Street road construction as the reason. There is no reopen date set.
Blush hosts a free jazz night every Monday from 9 p.m. to midnight for ages 18 and older.