Despite recent rumors that the Mishawaka Amphitheater or “The Mish” is closing for good, the mountain venue’s open sign gleamed brightly in the darkness of the Poudre Canyon Monday night.
Matt Bartos, assistant to the owner of the Mishawaka, said the venue is not closed, but changes are being made. The kitchen, however, is not open, and the Mish has no definite hours. Robin Jones, the Mish’s owner, could not be reached for comment on its status.
“The place is going to take a different twist, but we don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” Bartos said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
Bartos said that Jones was displeased with the way the place was being run when he returned to the Mish after having left for several weeks for personal issues.
Jones immediately either moved the scheduled shows to other venues, many to the Aggie Theater, or canceled them. He also fired most of the Mish’s employees.
Megan Smith, junior nutrition major and former waitress at the Mish, had gone out of town for two weeks and returned to find out that the kitchen had been closed, leaving her without a job.
“It seemed like Robin just needed to have control of things that he never really did before like the kitchen and inventory, and I guess it just fell through for him,” Smith said.
Smith is still unsure exactly what happened because she was not there to witness the situation firsthand and said that many other former employees are confused as well.
“Nobody that should have been knowing what was going on, knew what was going on,” Smith said.
Leonard Jaffee, aka “Boots” was a regular at the Mish as well as a part-time employee for five years. When Boots wasn’t in the kitchen, he was on the road with Merle Saunders and the Rainforest Band.
“I was the general all-around guy; I was a cook, I did the lighting, I did a lot of stuff up there, and I was there everyday and Robin and I became good friends; I don’t know what happened,” Boots said.
Boots also works for the CSU dining services and is currently the chef at Newsom Dining Hall. He said that Jones essentially closed his doors to everyone and although Boots was never fired, Jones told him not to return to the property. Boots attributes some of Jones’ actions to the loss of his son.
“I moved to the Poudre Canyon because of the Mish and I fell in love with the Mish and I’m sorry to see it go,” Boots said. “I can only hope that Robin gets over his grieving and gets the Mish back on its feet. Robin is a good friend and I hope he gets through whatever he’s going through and the Mish opens up again, I mean, it’s possible.”
Although it seemed that the Mish closed its doors early this season because of the many cancellations, a concert did take place on the outdoor stage Saturday night. An assortment of 15 heavy metal bands, featuring Immortal Dominion, Ransom, Apathy and Klii Syndicate, jammed at the Mish for an estimated crowd of 200 people, Bartos said.
Sharon Merritt, employee at the Poudre River Resort, which is located near the Mish, said that she noticed a concert was going on there.
“I saw vehicles there and a band’s trailer backed up there, but I had heard it was closed, too. But there sure were some people hanging out there,” Merritt said.
Jones’ two new assistants, Bartos and Rachel Walker, a couple from South Dakota, were recently hired and have only been working at the Mish since Saturday’s concert. Bartos and Walker said they are looking forward to putting on more shows at the Mish as long as they receive the owner’s approval. They said they are looking for local bands to play at the Mish and hope to keep the venue alive.
“We just want to maintain (the Mish) while we try to figure out exactly what will happen to this place,” Bartos said.
The couple plans to post fliers in downtown Fort Collins or even schedule a possible radio announcement to inform people of Mish concerts. Currently options to inform people are limited because the phone number for the Mish has been disconnected and the Web site has been offline.
Although it has been a persistent rumor that Jones plans to sell the venue, Bartos said that it’s unfounded.
“There’s a very good chance it will go back to the way it was,” Bartos said. “Things may be run a little differently, but the structure will still be the same. Everything is kind of up in the air right now.”
Currently there are no scheduled shows or tickets for sale for the amphitheater, and the restaurant remains closed.
Walt Werren, owner of ABCD’s, said that Jones pulled the tickets that were being sold for upcoming shows earlier in the month. Werren said that most of the shows are still occurring at other venues, while fans of the Mish wait in anticipation to see how events will turn out.
“To me and a lot of other people it would be a disappointment if the Mish was gone,” Werren said. “It’s a landmark and a truly unique place to see music.”
Tickets for concerts at the Mish were previously sold at Rockin’ Robin’s, although in 2006 that changed.
“We’ve carried Mish tickets in the past, but we didn’t this year because nobody really approached us about it,” said John Lawson, manager at Rockin’ Robin’s. “I don’t know that there was a reason behind that or not but we definitely had a lot of people asking about it all year.”
Bartos said several issues would first need to be tackled if The Mish was to be revived and set into full function once again. This would include fixing the small shaky bridge, which leads to the small island behind the venue often used for camping after shows. Bartos was unsure how the standing issue of parking at the Mish was going to be handled.
Werren also said that the parking dilemma is the single biggest problem that has been facing the Mish and that Jones has been working on the problem with the county and state for many years.
“Either Robin is going to make a big comeback or they will have to sell it to someone who is going to be able to maintain it and improve it, probably someone with a big pocket,” Werren said.
As of now, only flying rumors in Fort Collins state that the Mish will be sold. Some rumors said the Forest Service was considering purchasing the area and using it for a rafting station, however Reghan Cloudman, public affairs specialist at the U.S. Forest Service, said that they have no plans for the future in mind for that property.
“I can honestly say we don’t know what’s going on with the Mishawaka other than we know its closed up,” Cloudman said.
However Cloudman did say that the Forest Service is always looking to make the national forest’s checkerboard-like boundaries smoother.
“There’s a lot of private land within the national forest land so there is always confusion with the public and we keep that in the back of our head when we are looking at situations and opportunities,” Cloudman said.
But the Mish remains privately owned and its future remains a mystery.
“A number of people could possibly buy it if it were for sale,” Werren said, “but the issue is about what Robin is going to do, which nobody really knows right now.”
Staff writer Elena Ulyanova can be reached at email@example.com.