Jay LaFlesch—the “Jay” in “Jay’s” since 1984—still greets the beverage distributor with his weekly beer order. But the beer guy won’t be darkening his door for much longer: After 19 years of owning the Main St. bar, LaFlesch is in the process of selling his liquor license and closing up shop. He’s not willing to name names or go into specific details until he closes the deal, but he confirms that when the sale goes through, the license will be leaving the premises, and then there will be no more Jay’s—upstairs or downstairs.
“I haven’t seen any money yet,” he says. [The deal] hasn’t closed. My biggest priority has been giving my employees enough time to make arrangements.”
Rumors of an impending sale have circulated for years, which LaFlesch concedes is probably his own fault for countenancing every half-serious offer that’s come through the door—at least one a year, he estimates.
“Everybody wants to own a bar,” he says, shaking his head. “Somebody always comes in talking about wanting to buy it, but most of them are wannabes. It costs a lot of money to run this kind of operation. Most people can’t come up with the collateral or enough cash. Somebody comes in asking about buying the bar, and suddenly it’s ‘Jay is selling the place!’ It’s all been hearsay.”
Another live music club long subject to sale hearsay is The Blue Heron on West Pine. The two-year-old-venue is on the market for $625,000, the Missoulian has reported that the club has ceased booking new shows.
The closures seems likely to leave a yawning void in Missoula’s live music scene.
LaFlesch is well aware of Jay’s’ importance to the local music scene for the past 10 years, and notes that maybe it’s time for the young to leave the nest.
“I’m glad that I was able to provide the place for them,” LaFlesch says. “But you have to understand that I’m considerably older than most of these guys, and maybe it’s time for them to move on, too. I think other venues in town should pick up where I’m leaving off.”
The implication is that someone else should run the rock ’n’ roll clubhouse for a while—“If,” he says defiantly, “anybody else can run it.”
LaFlesch says he’ll keep the building for the time being, though he’s not sure what he’s going to do with it. It’ll be business as usual until the sale goes through, which he expects will happen before September. And yes, he says, there will probably be one hell of a final blowout. Is he sentimental, reflecting back on his 19 years of running the bar?
“I am, a little bit,” he says, almost wistfully. “But I’m also glad I’ll be doing something else eventually. Change is good, and I was ready for a change.”
And the first thing he intends to do with his freedom? LaFlesch doesn’t pause for a second.