Saturday, September 25, 1999

It's Closing Time For The Mango Grill

It's Closing Time For The Mango Grill
Capital Times :: Local/State :: 2A
Saturday, September 25, 1999
By Jon Segal Correspondent for The Capital Times
The Mango Grill, one of the last small venues for live music in Madison, will close after tonight due to financial difficulties.
``I had a dream of making the Mango work,'' said owner Kathy Griswold. ``It's been my life. I've done nothing else for the last four years.''

When the Mango Grill opened in fall 1995 at 56 University Square, it was a simple restaurant and bar across from the University of Wisconsin's southeast residence halls. But after students left for the summer, Griswold had to find a way to get crowds into the restaurant at night.

Seeing a dearth of music clubs in Madison, she started featuring live music on a limited basis. Soon, Griswold was booking bands five or more nights a week, to great acclaim from a city starved for small venues.

Although the club could barely accommodate more than 100 people, bands that played to more than 1,000 in other cities made a point of stopping at the Mango Grill.

``Nobody expected to get rich'' playing here, she said. ``But there's something else about the Mango that you don't get at a big coliseum.''

Griswold said artists liked playing at the club because she enjoyed the music and treated the artists with respect. She fed every road-weary band that played at the club, often giving them a tub of her garlic mashed potatoes to take with them to the next city.

``I love my customers, and I love the music,'' she said. ``The bands showed up, and we fed them and we bonded.''

Local promoter Greg Stewart agreed.

``They've just been really good to people,'' Stewart said. ``Every band that goes there just loves them.''

Although the restaurant developed a reputation for its mashed potatoes and home-cooked specials like ``Monday Meatloaf Madness,'' Griswold said the closure is due to a lack of capital and her own lack of experience as a business person.

While the loss of the restaurant may leave an empty feeling in the stomachs of downtown residents, the loss of another live music venue will leave a hole in Madison's music scene. The Mango was one of the only places where new local bands and smaller national acts could be booked in Madison. It provided bands with a needed stop between Chicago and Minneapolis.

``The Mango Grill was a great outlet to develop shows,'' Stewart said. ``Madison needs the Mango Grill.''

The club closes tonight with a show at 10 p.m. by Left Undone, a formerly local band that played some of its first shows at the Mango, but has moved to Chicago with its rising popularity. Griswold said the band's appearance is fitting for the club's last night.

``We need some closure,'' she said.