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Feral Book Cafe’s final chapter

Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox
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The Feral Book Cafe’s stuffed beaver will pack up at the end of the month, and waddle off to other haunts.

The dozens of maps stuck to the cafe’s low ceiling are coming down.

The red, orange and yellow Tibetan prayer flags that flutter outside are catching their last wind.



The last band to play the cafe’s performance space will be a bluegrass jam band from Michigan called Smokestack.

The Feral Book Cafe at 723 Cooper Ave. in Glenwood Springs closes July 31 due to noise complaints, said owner Farland Fish, and she doesn’t expect to open the business somewhere else.



“I’m not interested in trying to work it out in Glenwood Springs,” Fish said. Carbondale or Aspen might work, she said, but “the Glenwood community isn’t there yet.”

The Feral Book Cafe opened in the low -slung, garage-style building up the street from the Hotel Denver last November. The 49-year-old Fish hoped to offer something she’d found while living in Boulder: A book store and coffee shop with live music and other performances, where people could gather in an alcohol-free environment.

The place quickly filled up with Fish’s stuffed beaver, ceiling maps, posters, beads, counter culture knickknacks, stuffed chairs, chess tables, bookshelves packed with books, and random objects, such as a fully functional 1970s television, which sits on end on a wooden chair in the performance space.

“People would bring stuff in all the time,” Fish said. “They’d say `Look what I found.'”

The Feral Cafe’s fountain is located right inside the front door, and the prices on the chalk board behind the fountain advertise oddly priced drinks ranging from $1.07 to $2.04.

The performance space is located through a door to the left, in a cavernous room with a high ceiling and blackened walls. That’s where the Feral Book Cafe’s nine lives bit the dust.

“We tried to soundproof the overhead door and windows, but to no avail,” said employee J.C. Riggio, as he stood in the deserted performance space Sunday afternoon. “It didn’t work so good on the other side.”

The performance space is dominated by a graffiti-style, spray-painted mural on one wall. Riggio said the primary artists were NZER and Mya Jensen. Jensen painted a gigantic chimpanzee head wearing headphones and a Rasta hat with “Unity” printed on front.

“There are a few layers under that mural,” Riggio said.

There’s a stage at the west end of the space, opposite the overhead garage doors. The room’s capacity is 61, as stated on a fire department sign on the east wall. The walls are lined with fat couches from the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s, plus an orange swivel chair or two and some folding chairs. A pair of cheesy chandeliers provide just enough light for daytime use.

Musical highlights in the past few months included the alternative country band BR549, which is now touring Europe.

“They were great,” Riggio said.

Cover charges ranged from $5 to $30 and raised enough money to subsidize the rest of the operation. The Feral Book Cafe broke even at best, but making a lot of money wasn’t the point.

“This place was built on donated time,” Riggio said. “We couldn’t have done it without everyone pulling together. We had to keep our costs down, because that’s the way it had to be, and it was working.”

Except for the landlord.

“People kept calling him to complain,” Fish said. “He was getting a lot of flack from old timers.”

Riggio said people would sometimes spill out on the sidewalk after shows. Fish said some of those people were kids, and she believed it’s better for them to hang out in the open downtown, rather than up Transfer Trail where nobody knows what they are doing.

“But people were scared of kids outside,” Fish said.

Some of those kids spent a lot of time hanging out at the Feral Book Cafe, or helping to run it, and their attitudes changed over the months.

“The maturity level of these kids has gone up so much,” Fish said. “It was wonderful to see that.”

Mature kids or not, neighbors repeatedly complained to police about the noise, and the cafe was cited at least twice.

“Some folks forget there are a lot of apartments above businesses downtown,” said police chief Terry Wilson.

Fish said there have been many highlights at the cafe. The one she and Riggio mention first is when Alternative Radio founder David Barsamian spoke.

Monday nights were for Roaring Fork Peace Coalition presentations.

“They’d pack the place with all age groups,” Fish said. “Then there’d be discussions afterwards.”

Open mic nights attracted many first-time performers.

“That was absolutely wonderful,” Fish said.

Fish especially liked it when Yampah Mountain High School students held classes there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “We loved that energy,” she said.

Riggio said there’s talk of some kind of funeral procession from a park to the cafe when the place closes later this month. Fish said she doesn’t know about that idea, but has one of her own.

“I’d like to invite everyone down here to see what they’ve been missing,” she said.

Until month’s end, the Feral Book Cafe is open 8 a.m. to “10 or 12 at night,” seven days a week.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

lburton@postindependent.com


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