J Whoa performs at Hailey's Club during the Thin Line Film, Music and Photo festival late Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 in Denton, Texas.

J Whoa performs at Hailey's Club during the Thin Line Film, Music and Photo festival late Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 in Denton, Texas.

Gregory Castillo/The Dallas Morning News

After 12 years as a staple of the Denton music scene, beloved venue Hailey's is closing.

Owner Jennifer Gibbs confirmed the news, which was first reported by the Dallas Observer, citing several years of financial struggle. Its last day will be Dec. 31.

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The venue opened in 2003 and Gibbs took over the place as its fifth owner in 2013. She owns the neighboring restaurant and bar Dusty's, so it made sense business wise to acquire the space, she says. The transition would require fewer expenses than other investors and she would have more resources, such as current staff, a kitchen to feed both venues and a shared liquor license.

But getting patrons in the door was a challenge. Head count relied on bands big enough to lure fans willing to pay a cover. Plus in the last several years, local music venues have become a dime a dozen.

"It always seemed like a hard business model to me," said Gibbs, citing the numerous coffee shops, bars and even restaurants that now offer live music for free. "There aren't as many people now as there were 10-15 years ago that are willing to pay for live music."

The closing was a long time coming, according to Ray Gil Jr., who managed and owned Hailey's for a time. In a comment on the We Denton Do It blog, Gil said the club's focus "was simply on the people who worked there, played there and drank there," but that things took a turn for the worse after an ownership change.

"It was clear I had lost a lot of influence and slowly the focus got away from the people who made it what it was," he wrote.

The Hailey's longtime Denton residents and music lovers know will dissipate at the end of the year, but Gibbs promises two new concepts will inhabit the space come 2016. She's mum on the details, but says as soon as she can get a permit, the space will be divided by a wall and crews will begin work on the area where the back bar now stands. She hopes to open them Jan. 1 and March 1.

Plans include food and live music, but on a much smaller scale. And yes, it will likely be free, she says.

Until Dec. 31, Gibbs welcomes anyone who's played at Hailey's or has a sentimental attachment to the venue to book their last shows.

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