It's no secret Hailey's Club is not what it once was. Five years ago it was booking big-ticket shows on a consistent basis and was seen as a desirable stop for bigger touring indie acts.
Whatever the reason may be for the decline, whether it be the eventual exit of Spune's booking, the rise of venues such as the Granada Theater and Lola's or the recession, Hailey's was forced to change the way it did business. Instead of booking big shows once a month, it started relying on its DJ weeklies to keep people coming through the door.
In March, however, property manager Jerry W. Taylor bought 51 percent of the company, making previous owner Ray Gill a minority stakeholder and providing much-needed capital.
"I had a choice: I could either let it sink, or I could rescue it," Taylor says. "I decided to rescue it."
Part of Taylor's rescue strategy was firing resident '80s and '90s night DJ Joey Liechty, aka Yeahdef, via text message.
"[The] '90s night was the most consistent night of the week for us; we were almost always at capacity," says Mollie Reyes, former employee and manager of Lyuli Productions, who quit over her objections to Taylor's management style. "Jerry fired the one guy who gave him what he wanted: a full bar."
It could be argued that '90s night was popular simply because Hailey's is a better dance spot than the other Tuesday night sub-$1 well venues, although Tuesdays were routinely Hailey's best nights.
But Liechty knew his crowd, and terminating him via text message was a potentially costly decision.
"He slammed his fist on the table and yelled, 'I'm CEO! What I say goes!'" Liechty says, recounting his last encounter with Taylor, which Liechty requested minutes after being let go via SMS message. "He kept repeating how, 'I'm not worth an explanation.'"
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The '90s night aside, Taylor's management style has had both positive and negative impacts.
"As an investor, Jerry is absolutely vital to the business," says Damon Bird, another ex-employee who left over Taylor's management style and policies. "He's got every right to implement the changes he's made, and he's obviously a successful business person."
According to Bird and Reyes, though, some of Taylor's more unpopular policies include shutting off acts he didn't like, trying to buy out the Boxcar Bandits from Dan's Silverleaf, vastly increasing house costs for bands and, in general, being a savvy businessman who's not savvy about the style, culture or ethics of Denton.
"Jerry views everyone in this community as either a source of revenue or competition," Bird says. "That's no way to exist in Denton."—Rodrigo Diaz