TRUE ANOMALY IN LOCAL ROBO-JOURNALISM New sour-beer hotspot True Anomaly Brewing Company, which opened last month in the former electrical warehouse at 2012 Dallas St. just west of the main East Village campus in East Downtown (and possibly in the path of the planned expansion of I-45) “seems to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood,” declares a writeup appearing on the Houston Chronicle website. But this is not your average new-place-opening report — well, at least not yet. A note at the bottom indicates the report was “created automatically using local business data” (presumably from the Eater Houston story and 3 Yelp reviews noted in the text), “then reviewed and augmented by an editor.” The source: Local-story bot purveyor Hoodline, “a collaboration between experienced local reporters and innovative data scientists and engineers, combining the latest computational methods and tools with journalistic insights, news judgment, and thoughtful design to develop a new form of news reporting.” Hoodline has been quietly feeding stories and listicles to both ABC News and Hearst Media since last year — but you can skip the middlemen and soak up the company’s regular stream of assembled and ready-for-publication Houston auto-stories directly from this link. [Houston Chronicle; Eater Houston; Hoodline] Photo of True Anomaly Brewing Company: Charles W.
East Downtown’s self-styled “come-as-you-are beer garden & adult playground” Truck Yard is now taking reservations from parties of up to 20 people who want a spot where they can sing like nobody’s listening. What better location that than inside one of those thick-walled shipping containers piled up near the bar’s entrance? Workers outfitted the inside of a steel box on the left near the entrance off Dallas St. with bench seating, a crop of LPs serving as ceiling decorations, an iPad-controlled sound system, 3 flat screen teevees to display lyrics, 2 microphones, and a whole bunch of foam soundproofing panels sporting photos of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Elvis, Aretha Franklin and other professional talent, perhaps for inspiration. $25 plus a drink minimum buys you an hour inside.
Photos: Truck Yard (interior); Gail G. (shipping containers); Marc Longoria (courtyard)
Construction appears to have picked up lately on the not-yet-named bar going up on the corner of Emancipation Ave and Rosewood St., according to the photo at top sent in by a Swamplot reader. The new structure is across the street from longstanding Third Ward watering hole Dbar and its adjacent parking lot. (Formerly known as Dowling Street Lounge, Dbar did away with that name around the same time that Dowling St. became Emancipation Ave.)
The new build on the west side of the street looks to include a few parking spots of its own on both Emancipation and Rosewood. One casualty of the work so far: the sign shown above telling truckers not to use Rosewood as a thru-street to the 288 feeder, which runs one block west of the construction site.
Photos: Swamplot inbox
The interior is dark and the patio umbrellas drawn tight at Bagby St. bar Sterling House where there’s been “no business activity for over 2 weeks,” reports a vigilant Swamplot tipster. Absent the drinking crowd, the structure’s gone back to looking a bit more like it did before trading up its run-down domestic existence for entry into the Midtown bar scene in 2016. In order to effect the switch-up, workers gutted and largely reconstructed the building, adding a fire escape onto its south facade and new fencing around its outskirts. They also extended the upstairs porch to hug the entire second-story of the building. (Previously, it ended at the edge of the canopy shown on the left, above the business’s dangling signage.)
The house’s namesake: Ross S. Sterling, co-founder of Humble Oil Company and, later, Governor of Texas from 1931 to 1933. He never actually owned 3015 Bagby St.; members of his family did. And even with the recent renovations, it’s a long way off from that other white house (9 bedrooms, 15 baths) he’s remembered for over in La Porte across the Ship Channel from his Baytown factory.
Photos: Swamplox inbox
3015 Bagby St.
Landing with a thud on the city planning commission’s dais this week: the rendering above depicting what Arizona-based beer and pizza chain Bottled Blonde wants to do to the former Weiner’s Dry Goods Store No. 12 at 4901 Washington Ave. Most of the building’s original architectural details — for instance, the signage and storefront entrance shown above at Durham Dr. — are long-gone according to Tim Cisneros of Cisneros Design Studio, the firm responsible for the planned makeover.
And so the renovations Bottled Blonde has planned will look more forward than backward in order to reshape the structure from what it is now, a shuttered Cash America Pawn branch:
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ARE THE NEW FITZGERALD’S OWNERS PLANNING TO BRING DOWN THE HOUSE?
“They came and tested for asbestos,” Fitzgerald’s longtime owner Sara Fitzgerald tells the Chronicle’s Marcy de Luna, “so I think they’re looking to tear it down. It was their original intention to build a high-rise there.” Fitzgerald sold Fitzgerald’s along with 3 home lots behind it on E. 6½ St. in July to the same Chicago-based company, Easy Park, that’s been planning that automated parking garage a few blocks west down White Oak Dr. in place of the existing, analog garage next to Tacos A Go Go (which it also owns, along with some other retail nearby). She’s now renting the building at 2706 White Oak from her new landlord and running the 41-year-old business remotely from Seguin, Texas, outside San Antonio, de Luna reports. Following a spree of farewell shows scheduled throughout the month, the club will close with a New Year’s Eve party featuring ’70s and ’80s cover band SKYROCKET! [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Caramels D.
THE MARQUIS II IS GETTING ITS SECOND ENCORE
Well, that was fast. After shutting down on Sunday without any timeline for a return, the Marquis II reopened at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a note posted on Facbeook by longtime bar employee Al Jara. According to the Chronicle’s Marcy de Luna, Jara is now the owner of the place, having purchased it from his boss during the 2-day timeout. The last time a Marquis employee pulled a stunt like this, it was a pair of devoted cocktail waitresses who bought the place after the owner, their boss at the time, died in the late ’60s. (Adding “II” to the name was their idea.) In this case the former owner is still alive, just sick of dealing with the sustained construction activity outside the bar on Bissonnet St., which Jara says has cost the business $1.2 to $1.5 million since it began in 2014. “They’ve broken up our parking lot and we are not getting business because people can’t access us,” he tells de Luna. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Marquis II
A flyer posted on the Marquis II at 2631 Bissonnet yesterday announces that the place is now closed indefinitely, leaving West University almost entirely devoid of bars (except for the one inside the Whole Foods on Bellaire Blvd.). The Marquis II’s predecessor, the Marquis, opened in the then-fledgling River Oaks Shopping Center in 1945. After the bar’s original owner died in the late 1960s, a pair of cocktail waitresses bought it and decamped to Bissonnet and Buffalo Spdwy., where the suffix became part of the venue’s name.
Following a stint at Bissonnet and Weslayan, the bar wound up in its current spot near Kirby in 1985. Houston architect Lars Bang had originally designed the building to house a branch of California donut chain The Big Donut, which it did until the 1970s when a gentleman’s lounge dubbed The Bunny Club blacked out the windows and took over. It left after a fire in the early ’80s, but not entirely: During the Marquis II’s last major remodel in 2011, workers uncovered a painting of a women wearing a low-cut outfit with a bushy tail that had been hiding behind one of the building’s walls, an unmistakable relic of the shuttered strip club. “Although badly charred,” according to the bar’s website, “the painting underwent a little restoration and still hangs proudly on our wall.”
Photos: Marquis II
Last Last Call
A SATURDAY NIGHT SWAN SONG AT SPRUCE GOOSE: SOCIAL FLYERS CLUB
This past weekend was the last one ever for the concert venue known as Spruce Goose: Social Flyers Club on the second floor of 809 Congress, across from Market Square Park and directly above Henke and Pillot. The 100- to 300-person club only opened up earlier this year, but managed to stay booked through the summer and all the way up until its finale on Saturday, which featured — among others — self-described “Punkish?” band Branagan, shown sending things off in the photo above. [Spruce Goose: Social Flyers Club] Photo: Branagan
Spotted on the Instagram story for a not-yet-open venue calling itself The Gypsy Poet: TABC signage going up where it plans to move into Core Church Midtown‘s former home at 2404 Austin St. It’s the fifth liquor-purveying establishment planned for the block — bounded by McIlhenny, Austin, McGowen, and Caroline streets — in the past year-and-a-half, none of which are open yet. But which together have now succeeded in reserving almost all of the space there for themselves.
According to its pastor Jim Stern, Core Church had been negotiating to move into a smaller spot at the back 2404 when the landlord tabled that option and switched its current lease over to a month-to-month agreement. Shortly after, in mid-February, the church was given 60 days to hit the road. It left in mid-March. “I am wondering if we were ‘pushed’ out because of the bars,” Stern tells Swamplot.
Photos: The Gypsy Poet (sign); Core Church (Jim S.)
Change Comes Knocking
As advertised by the banner fronting Montrose Blvd., the wine bar and its outdoor drinking area are now open for business. Getting things ready inside the venue took a little longer than it did to set up fencing. After the bottles went up in late August, the front door of the former homeless shelter stayed closed to patrons for a little over a month.
Drink specials set the stage not only for what Moon Tower Inn billed as a “gluttonous celebration” of its 8-year anniversary 2 weeks ago, they also helped management get rid of all its inventory so that the venue could close down while workers install a new patio in place of its old one. Following 3 days of clearance festivities, the bar ran dry in the afternoon last Sunday — although some “cheap ass” food remained in stock until Friday, August 25, when it finally shut its doors. Now, a Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing what used to be the Moon Tower’s covered patio transformed into an earthen field. From it, the new heated and cooled outdoor seating area will materialize with help from the equipment pictured above.
It’ll span the yard between the corner of Canal and North Ennis streets and the shipping container that architecture firm Kinetic Design Lab repurposed for the bar’s reopening in 2012:
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3004 Canal St.
AMERICA GARDENS DECLARES VICTORY FOLLOWING 2-MONTH CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
More than $230,000 have now been raised by online investors who pledged allegiance to the planned bar with their wallets over the summer. Although there had been some work at the property before the campaign kicked off in July, the developer Syn Hospitality claims it’s relying on the additional funds in order to really get down to business at the site on the corner of Caroline and McGowen in what it’s calling “East Midtown.” It plans to keep accepting money until November 15. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Syn Hospitality
Note: This story has been updated.
Parts left over from the metal barn that Black Page Brewing leased out beside White Oak Bayou out a few years back are now lying in a heap next to a wooden skeleton that’s taken the demolished structure’s place. The deconstruction began last month according to neighbors who called 311 on August 31 to report that it was happening, potentially, they said, without the required permits. An inspector showed up the next day to check things out, one of several field trips the city would make to the planned brewpub’s digs at the end of Glen Park St. over the next few weeks in response to multiple follow-up calls from nearby residents.
By the time a demo permit did show up last Friday, the site had already been tagged twice by city officials: first for the premature teardown, and once again — as shown below — for additional unpermitted work:
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WHO’S DRINKING IN D&W LOUNGE AT 7 AM?
Until recently, a lot of “third shift workers on their way home” from the Maxwell House coffee plant 3 blocks up Milby St., reports John Nova Lomax in his recent Vice ode to the bar. (There’s no getting away with it under current regs, but — he adds — D&W used to be a 24-7 establishment.) “It was also a hit with weary cops and assistant district attorneys,” says Lomax. The coffee plant closed down over the summer, but the bar’s hours remain the same. [Vice; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Nathan F.