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north of the dial
On Halloween night, one of Denton's finest strolled into Hailey's Club. Bypassing the line of costumed clubgoers blocking traffic on Mulberry Street, the police officer approached the main bar.
It was nearly midnight. DJ Nature of The Party was spinning records, and the house was packed. A thirsty horde of masqueraders were stacked four and five deep around the bar as the officer asked to speak with the manager.
"He said they were going to have to do some crowd control," says Ray Gill, the venue's general manager. "I knew the line outside was long, but I had no idea how long until the officer walked in."
Damn near every club in Denton was doing something special to celebrate Halloween, but Hailey's was also throwing its own "5th Birthday Party Bash" featuring DJ Wild in the Streets, Black Tie Dynasty and DJ Nature.
Bar manager Rocky Ottley has worked for Hailey's since the club's beginning. Converted from an antique store, Ottley says, "I literally helped build the club; the building was just a big, wide-open space when we started construction."
After opening its doors in 2003, Hailey's quickly became a leading venue in Denton—and the metroplex. By 2004, the club had already received a Dallas Observer "Best of Dallas" nod as the area's best live music venue. But what has the club done in its five years to build its success and to maintain its status as a premier, swanky indie-rock venue?
"The fact is, there's a very strong sense of community and ownership among the staff," Gill says. "And we have a very low turnover. We don't have a bunch of hired mercenaries. When the staff goes home at night, it's like they leave a part of their heart here. And that community starts from the bottom up. You have to build a foundation starting with the clientele. The staff takes care of them, and I take care of the staff. And then we, as a club, have to keep the same attitude toward the bands."
Early on, the club booked a mix of blues and jazz artists as well as buzzworthy indie acts. But it didn't take long to see that the rock shows were considerably more successful. "So we went with that," Gill says.
Then, about two years ago, the venue started up its wildly popular weekly dance nights. And as the club continues to try new things, it recently introduced Ping-Pong tournaments to its normally more music-inclined schedule.
And that's OK, says sound man Justin Collins.
"What makes Hailey's work," Collins says, "is that, somehow, it's able to successfully walk the line between dance club, late-night bar and indie-rock venue."