Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki, a zydeco dancehall in Opelousas since 1947, has closed its doors. Owner Tony Gradney confirmed Sunday that the club is no longer in business and held its last event Dec. 29.
The world-renowned dancehall will likely be appraised soon and put up for sale. As word of the club’s closure spread last week, Gradney has had at least six people inquire about buying it. But Gradney, 58, said he’s had enough. Since they were teenagers, Tony and his sister, Cynthia, 67, have worked in the club, opened by their late father, Arnold “Slim” Gradney. Grammy winners, like Clifton Chenier, Rockin’ Sidney and Terrance Simien, cut their musical teeth at Slim’s.
Media outlets across the globe have visited the club. “Passion Fish,” a 1992, Oscar-nominated movie starring Mary McDonnell and Alfre Woodard, features a frenetic dance scene with John Delafose and the Eunice Playboys on stage at Slim’s.
But Gradney said, in recent years, the atmosphere has changed. Ever-increasing expenses, along with young, often unruly crowds, caused him to close the doors.
“It’s a lot of changes with the crowd that’s coming out now,” said Gradney, who works as a pipeline welder. “My sister is at the age where she couldn’t handle it anymore. We decided, after 43 years, it was time for a break.
“It’s a younger crowd and a lot of disrespect. They’ll take off their shirt and want to dance with no shirt. It’s not like it used to be with the older people. People would just come out and have a good time. You’re under four hours of nothing but stress now.”
Gradney said band fees have only elevated the stress level. Top zydeco bands have charged him $3,500 or more for one performance.
Gradney said there’s little money left to make a profit.
“They don’t look at the overhead you have, the utilities and things like that. They tell me, ‘We’ll take the door (cover charge.) They’ll start off charging at $10, then $15 and $20. By midnight, they’ll have a packed house.
“They’ll put the money in their pockets and go home. Then you have all the stress of what the night crowd destroyed and what you have to fix. It got to where we weren’t hardly making any more money.”
Gradney longs for the days when parents, often dressed in their Sunday best, brought the entire family to Slim’s. Besides the legendary musicians, he recalls numerous couples who married after meeting at the club.
Gradney said he’ll miss the good times and cherish the old memories. But recent memories haven’t been pleasant.
“Things changed when the older crowd stopped coming out. Before you used to be able to kick back, enjoy it and let the night go on.
“Now, you have to be on your Ps and Qs at all times. The things they do now are very disrespectful.
“We said, ‘Let’s close and have good remembrances.’ My sister and I did 43 years of this for the public and we never had bad, bad stuff at the place. We need to go out with it like that. Back in the day, it was a nice place to come out and enjoy yourself.”