The end of an era: Dibbo's is sold
The message splashed slantwise across the Dibbo's website reads: "Gone To Rock n' Roll Heaven. Please see Dibbo's Facebook page." With little public notice, the last show at the classic rock and roll venue took place Saturday night, March 23.
Fittingly, Austin Healey, a favorite band of Dibbo's patrons over the years, played the Lynyrd Skynyrd standard "Freebird" for the closing number.
"We dedicate this song to Dibbo's. May it live on in all of our memories forever," the band's frontman said in introducing the number, which can be viewed on the new Dibbo's Facebook page.
Dibbo's manager Chuck McGee said a capacity crowd was on hand, drawn only by word of mouth, social media and the marquee announcing the final night on the front of Dibbo's Hotel in downtown Hudson.
The mood was upbeat. People were dancing, applauding for every song and having a good time, McGee said. Many former patrons came back for the last good-bye.
"It was wonderful to run into so many customers I hadn't seen, some for years," he said.
The question McGee has heard hundreds of times over the past few weeks is: What are we going to do now?
Dibbo's was the only Hudson establishment to consistently offer live rock music and dancing on the weekends.
On April 9, papers were signed finalizing the sale of the Dibbo's building to Last Man Standing LLC, a partnership of three area men who have begun renovating the building, with plans to open a craft brew pub and restaurant.
"It's the end of an era. It truly is," McGee said. The Dibbo Hotel - including a bar, former café, upstairs rooming house and the nightclub - had been in his wife Vanda's family for 57 years. Vanda's sister, Vicki Fenner, was a co-owner.
The sisters' parents, Bertha and Vic Fenner, bought the business in 1956.
It was under Vic Fenner's management that Dibbo's became a household name, beginning in the 1960s when he converted a large storage area near the rear of the building into a nightclub called The Rainbow Room.
In the 1970s, an addition to the nightclub was built and it became known as simply Dibbo's - attracting some of the hottest bands in the Upper Midwest and the nation.
Tommy James and the Shondels, Foghat, Molly Hatchet, Headeast, Blue Oyster Cult, The Romantics, Steppenwolf, Great White, Firehouse and Tommy Tutone are a few of the bands that played there.
"It's been a part of my life for a long time, so I'm sad to see it go," said McGee, who went to work at Dibbo's in January 1988 and became part of management team soon after.
"But I'm also excited for the future," the 48-year-old said, even though he isn't certain what he will be doing. He knows he'll pursue some business opportunity.
Anthony Dabruzzi of River Falls, Aaron Kearns of Somerset and Ed Bremer of Maplewood, Minn., are the partners in Last Man Standing.
Dabruzzi said in a phone call Monday that demolition of the interior first floor of the building is under way.
The plan is to have the existing bar, café and center area of the first floor remodeled in time for the gastro pub to open at the end of June.
The renovation of the existing nightclub to serve as a banquet hall and event center has been pushed back some.
Dabruzzi said the goal now is to begin that project a few months after the brew pub and restaurant opens. The partners hope to have the event center open for bookings in early 2014.
The façade of the building will be restored, as nearly as possible, to what it looked like in the late 1890s when it was the Commercial Hotel. The front of the third floor of the hotel was destroyed in a fire in the 1970s, so the restoration won't be exact.
But the large archway in front of the present bar will be reopened, and the glass front will return where the café is now.
The partners haven't announced the name of the establishment yet.
Dabruzzi said it will feature high-end pub fare and a variety of craft beers, including some brewed locally. The focus will be on locally grown produce and proteins, he said.
The partners have hired an experienced general manager to run the brew pub and restaurant.