Say Howdy to the Largest Gay Country Bar in Texas

SAY HOWDY TO THE LARGEST GAY COUNTRY BAR IN TEXAS Lamenting the closing of Brazos River Bottom in Midtown, the new owners of the 1955 Esquire Ballroom — where a young Willie Nelson, among other country crooners, cut his teeth — say they are restoring the vacant dancehall and saloon and will be opening on August 24 what they claim is the largest LGBT country bar in Texas. At 11410 Hempstead Hwy. in Spring Branch, the 10,000-sq.ft. building is now named Neon Boots and, according to a press release, is being renovated to include a “huge dance floor and performance stage, six bar stations, table service, [and an] expansive outdoor area with deck and patio. The owners also anticipate installing a mechanical bull.” [Neon Boots; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Esquire Ballroom: West Houston Archives

27 Comment

  • I wouldn’t be caught dead in Spring Branch. Pass.

  • A more authentic country-western location and venue probably can’t be found within the city limits. And who knows, that old Spring Branch nabe north of Long Point recently discussed here could become a gayborhood eventually.

  • You couldn’t find a location closer to our neighborhood. Not sure I wanna take a road trip, to go to a bar. Was Montrose area to expensive for a new location. Corner Montrose/Westheimer has big space. Couldn’t you have negotiated a deal space vacant for several years. Lot’s of parking. Hope you can survive being out in the “Country”. Is Spring Branch a “LGBT” friendly neighborhood. Not sure bout that!

  • who will drive to Spring Branch from Houston and drink, then drive home..well some queens might!!!

  • Umm, Spring Branch IS in Houston. Rather far into Houston, when compared to most of the nicer suburbs. And honestly, this venue is really in an industrial area, not the residential part of Spring Branch.

    Driving to go drinking is going to be a problem no matter where you are in Houston, for the most part, because we have super-expensive taxis (that can’t be hailed on the street) and crappy public transit. Limit yourself to 2 (regular) drinks max or have a designated driver.

    Glad to see that we’ll have another place to 2-step, and one with a relevant musical history too.

  • A gay club nowhere near the gayberhood–good luck with that–gays like their clubs and bars within walking distance and located in the designated gayberhood –Montrose, Turtle Creek, West Hollywood, Chelsea–this is clueless opening this in SPRING BRANCH!–I get that this club has history but not gay history –I’m perplexed as to what the hell they’re thinking –gays are not and will not leave the Montrose area–these people do not know their clientele well

  • OMG!!!!! Tooooooooooooooooo Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!!!

    guuuuh. :-(

  • This is the kind of thing that makes Houston great. I’m neither LGBT nor a country music fan, but I can’t help but cheer a concept that sounds so, well, Houstonish.

  • Most gay folks I know live Shady Acres, Timbergrove, Garden Oaks / North Shepherd, Pinemont / 290, and Westbury. Plus quite a number who live in the country or small towns. They are hardly confined to Montrose. In fact, they played a major role in the current gentrification trend in Garden Oaks / Oak Forest and Westbury.

    There’s a whole subdivision up in the Inwood area that caters to gay buyers.

    For a lot of these folks, Antoine at Hempstead will be quite convenient, much more so than Montrose.

  • I have lived Montrose since the mid-80’s when it was mostly gay. It is not now. It’s all types who moved into town into the 3-4 story new homes. Most of the gay folks I know are in the Garden Oaks, Timbergrove areas as mentioned above. Still gays here of course, but it is not the gayneighborhood (see Lower Westheimer) of old.

  • I sure wouldn’t call that Spring Branch.

    When I was young and cruising, I’d go all over town.

    I find it hard to believe that gays do not have cars. And that’s what it would have taken to keep my friends and me from going where there were other like minded folks back in the 60s-70s.

  • Yeah local planner, but are those the gays that still go out to clubs? It might make it as a lesbian venue, since I don’t think there is one in Houston anymore and wouldn’t have competition, but being a large club, it will look and feel empty and dead if it doesn’t get a good size crowd. I am skeptical on this one.

  • @winer–I agree —look Montrose will always be the Gayborhood –no matter if it’s 50 percent or 25 percent gay–if you’re gay you know exactly what I mean, if not just take my word for it–young gays are not going out to Spring Branch–they hardly went to BRB–and it was on the edge of Montrose –they’ll go to F Bar–Meteor–South Beach–Guava––this will never be a success as a gay country and western bar/club –period

  • Actually, most of the folks (men) I knew who patronized the BRB didn’t live in Montrose; they lived in the areas I described above. Admittedly not a scientific sample but still…

    Lots of folks still want to 2-step, and for the moment this will offer their only local opportunity unless they want to shock the Wild West (or equivalent dance club) crowd. I think for gay visitors to Houston (yes we do have them), it will have a harder time attracting business.

  • I wonder, if one had done a longitudinal study, whether there would have been any particularly stunning difference between the migratory patterns of gay men and of non-gay men that lived in the urban core during the heyday of the Montrose ‘gayborhood’ (provided adjustments and crosstabulation for demographic, education, income, and the number of children reared).

    I would suspect that the archetypal gay household (one or two childless white males, well-educated, holding professional jobs) to behave pretty much like a single heterosexual male or a DINK household with the same characteristics…provided a shared revealed preference for the urban core in period zero.

    If so, then you might expect to find both populations disproportionately in gentrifying second-ring suburbs and perhaps also, in general, near their places of employment.

  • There is no such thing as a gayborhood in Houston anymore. Montrose may have a small collection of bars close to each other that my identify the area as gay, but there are gay bars all over this city.

    club 13 – Shepherd in the Heights
    Rainbow Lounge – Woodlands
    Viviana’s – Dacoma near 290
    The Usual – TC Jester by I-10
    Crystal – Southwest Freeway past the Galleria
    Cozy Corner – Westbury

    You see, there are gay bars all over this city and there are gay people that live everywhere. Most of the people that went to BRB live nowhere near Montrose and many lived outside of the Beltway, yet it was packed all the time.

    If you think Montrose is the gayborhood, please broaden your horizons.

    Neon Boots needs to truly cater to that BRB crowd by bringing back many of the same event BRB sponsored and hosted. If they can grab some of the bartenders, they’ll get an instant crowd. It’s one of the reasons that the other gay bars quickly offered the previous bartenders positions since they have a built in crowd that will follow them.

  • Now I’m imagining TheNiche shooting gay & straight men with tranquilizer dart guns, then tagging them for his longitudinal study…

    Maybe he can get a grant!

  • Young gay men from small towns that migrate to Houston because in these insular small often evangelical and redneck communities they feel singled out, often discriminated against, they come looking for acceptance and freedom, then you have educated gays just graduated from university in other cities whi move to the big city for their first job who seek acceptance as well hence the Gayboroods with their gay bars and clubs and multitude’s of gay and gay friendly business–the Gayborhood does matter to us and it’s just not any neighborhood close to work that will do, Montrose matters and always will

  • Gays arguing with Gays about where Gays live/go clubbing, classic!!!

  • I don’t think the distance from Montrose will be a problem. The only reason they’d need to be close is if they needed to share clients with the other bars in the gayborhood, but the “country gay” crowd seems wildly different from the “city gay” crowd, which was apparent the few times I went to BRB or even Ranch Hill up in Spring. There wasn’t a lot of crossover between the two scenes.

  • Arguing about the merits of this gay bar’s location is kind of ironic. The previous incarnation of the BRB was located in a hundred year old structure in Midtown back when Midtown was a scary no man’s land. They probably located there because the rent was cheap (at the time)and no one lived there to be scared of “the gays” bothering them. Location of the Montrose bars back in the ’60’s and ’70’s was done for the same reason…Montrose was a seedy area with cheap rent. Yet the gay community found the bars and patronized them because that’s where they were, and if you wanted to go to a gay bar, you didn’t have a choice of going to one anywhere else. From what I know of the BRB, they had a pretty darn loyal clientele, many of which went there every weekend to dance. I’m sure they will find this new one out in Spring Branch where the rent is cheap, and the neighborhood is a little seedy, and call it their own.

  • I think the owners are shooting (no pun intended)for more of a campy, themish place with this venue and spot. They could have a dykes on bikes biker night, or maybe a “ladies’ night” like that bar in Terminator 3.

  • @shadyheightster–I’m an urban gay, more F Bar than BRB, but I know people who would go to BRB for a change –but they went because it was CLOSE to all the other gay bars–it might have worked as a small niche hole in the wall bar, but that size venue–forget it!–the vast majority of gays bitch about driving to Guava!! you think they’ll drink and drive to Spring Branch!!-in a word–hayll no!

  • *well two words;)

  • Most of the other gay men I know are like me – they don’t go to bars much because they have other things to do. That said, I think this is cool & will check it out.

  • Neon Boots just opened last Saturday and over 2,300 people showed up (even though the bar can only handle 1,000).

    As for the location, here’s the writeup from the Houston Press:
    “For all of Houston’s progression, most gay businesses seem to stay within the confines of Montrose. But Galloway says that’s a thing of the past.

    “We have a lot of clients coming up to us, thanking us for opening a bar that’s more local to them,” said Galloway. “Montrose has become a little yuppie, and not everyone can afford to live there, so people are starting to move more northwest to these up and coming neighborhoods.”

  • Well Neon Boots has been opened a year now is one the most successful gay bars in Houston. While since then several of the other gay bars have closed. I guess all of your dire predictions about the location were unfounded.