Downtown Modesto’s Fat Cat Music House & Lounge will close its doors for good at the end of June.
Original owner Jeff Duarte, who purchased the two-story 11th Street property in 2001, has sold the building to a new owner. The spot operated for some 15 years as one of Modesto’s premier nightclubs and concert venues.
The new owner is Esam Khacho, a Modesto entrepreneur whose businesses include the Three Amigos Auto Center. Rogelio Ortiz, a representative for Khacho, said he has not decided what to do with the space or whether it will continue as a nightclub.
Longtime Fat Cat general manager Chris Ricci, who has been with the club since the start, said the June 28 show with the nationally touring rock group Hinder will be the final event before shutting down. The club has played host to headlining musical acts such as Rob Zombie, Buddy Guy, Maroon 5, Sir Mix-A-Lot and Tears for Fears over the years. It also branched out into comedy, boxing, mixed martial arts and other areas. In February, hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg played to a sold-out crowd at the 524-capacity club.
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“I think that the Fat Cat helped bring legitimate entertainment, nightclub entertainment, to the Valley for the first time ever,” Ricci said. “And for over a decade we were able to sustain that and be successful.”
I think that the Fat Cat helped bring legitimate entertainment, nightclub entertainment, to the Valley for the first time ever. And for over a decade we were able to sustain that and be successful.
Chris Ricci, longtime Fat Cat general manager
But in more recent years, the club has struggled because of the down economy. Ricci said the crowds that once flocked to downtown Modesto for its bars and nightclubs dropped off significantly during the recession and have never fully bounced back.
Duarte – who started the club with Greg Adams, who has since left the business – said his focus had shifted over the years from being a single club owner to being married with two daughters. The property has been for sale for the past 14 months. He said Khacho had indicated to him he was interested in keeping it a live venue in the future.
Duarte said he was grateful to all the performers, patrons and people who worked at the club over the years.
“The right guy came along (to buy) and it worked out. I know small-business owners and have gained enormous respect for all of them, particularly the ones downtown, for investing their energy and money in providing products and jobs for the city,” he said. “I was proud to be part of that group for a while. It was a great run.”
The right guy came along (to buy) and it worked out. I know small-business owners and have gained enormous respect for all of them, particularly the ones downtown, for investing their energy and money in providing products and jobs for the city. I was proud to be part of that group for a while. It was a great run.
Jeff Duarte, original owner of Fat Cat Music House & Lounge
For at least the past two years, the Fat Cat has ceased to operate as a regular dance club and nightspot and instead has become primarily a rental and event venue. It hosts shows booked by Ricci and his company Chris Ricci Presents as well as other concert producers in the region. Ricci said the space has been open on average about four days a month for shows.
For its final month, the club has a series of shows scheduled, mostly booked by outside promoters. They include: Mexican regional band Liberación on June 11, Modesto-based Southern rock band Dam on June 24, and a 209Productions presents Thrashocalypse 2016 II metal show June 25, which will be followed by what is being billed as “the last dance party ever at the Fat Cat.” Then the Hinder show, part of the band’s acoustic national tour, will be the club’s swan song June 28.
“We want to go out on top; we’ve booked some great shows and we’re going to have a really fantastic month,” Ricci said.
Ortiz said the new owner should make a decision in about a week on how he plans to proceed with the property.