06/09/14 11:00am

Live at Bayou Place, 534 Texas Ave., Downtown Houston

The 4-bar complex upstairs in downtown’s Bayou Place known collectively as Live! at Bayou Place shut down at the end of last month. ”Cowboy bar” PBR, Lucie’s Liquors, Shark Bar, and Chapel Spirits had replaced Slick Willie’s Pool Hall and Rocbar in 2011, around the same time the Sundance Cinemas took over the Angelika Film Center spot downstairs in the same building. (Previous upstairs nightspots had included BAR Houston and Whiskey Creek.) The 4 bars took up 18,000 sq. ft. of space, and required a single admission for entry.

A reader notes that Sundance, The Blue Fish, the Bayou Music Center, the Wine Cellar, Hard Rock Cafe, and Italian restaurant Little Napoli are still open in the same building, a 130,000-sq.-ft. entertainment complex carved out of the former Albert Thomas Convention Center almost 17 years ago.

Photo: Shea Serrano

Downtown Shutdowns
06/05/14 1:00pm

State Bar at Rice Lofts, 909 Texas Ave., Downtown Houston

State Bar at Rice Lofts, 909 Texas Ave., Downtown HoustonThe State Bar and Lounge, which shut down this past weekend after more than 15 years in a storied space that was formerly home to the Capitol Club in the Rice Hotel, is about to undergo a “massive remodel,” a source tells Swamplot.

The members-only Capitol Club was once the haunt of a number of powerful and well-known attorneys, politicians and other powerful men in the city; according to KHOU’s Doug Miller, it was also the site of President Kennedy’s last drink (unless, of course, he polished off a few more daiquiris in his hotel room after his late-November 1963 visit). In its quasi-reconstruction and rebirth as a public establishment after the renovation of the Rice Hotel into the Rice Lofts in 1998, the spot maintained popularity among lawyers — especially the newly minted ones: Many would head to the State Bar to celebrate passing the state bar.

To judge it by its name, however, the new second-story venue now being planned there may have a slightly different set of guiding principles. A bar named Lawless Kitchen and Spirits will open in the space after renovations are complete, the source tells Swamplot.


Is This Still Legal?
06/02/14 2:30pm

With an entertaining, droll video (see above), a close-to-Downtown location already picked out, and a “first ever in Houston” concept, the fundraising effort for the Press Start Bar seemed to have a lot going for it. Alas, the Kickstarter game plan for the planned console-videogame-themed nightspot has failed to reach its high-score goal. After 30 days on the crowdfunding platform, the crew garnered $18,483 in pledges from 81 different backers. That’s impressive for a first try at the controls, but a bit shy of the stated $50,000 its founders said they needed to secure the proposed location — “off Rusk and St. Emanuel” (between the 59 overpass and BBVA Compass Stadium) — obtain building permits, and get started with TABC licensing, to be able to serve craft beers and Pokemon-themed cocktails, among other menu items.


Press Restart
05/30/14 12:45pm

Marfreless, 2006 Peden St., River Oaks Shopping Center, HoustonThe former operators of Marfreless — the oh-so-dark bar that hid behind the unmarked blue door under the stairs in back of the River Oaks Shopping Center for more than a decade until shutting down in the middle of last year — filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the group that later renovated the space and opened a bar of the same name inside it in January of this year. In essence, the suit claims that the bar’s current operators are imposters, and are using the Marfreless name in its former leased location — and claiming to have reopened it — without permission. “Marfreless was temporarily closed in March of 2013, when it transitioned to new ownership, the third in its distinguished lifetime,” reads the new Marfreless website, created by the bar’s current operators. But the lawsuit claims that isn’t true. “Despite these representations by Defendant,” reads a filing by Marfreless Ventures, LP, “no such ownership transition has ever taken place.”


The Lawsuit Behind the Bar
05/29/14 12:00pm

THAT BAR ON THE RICE HOTEL BALCONY IS CLOSING Patio, State Bar & Lounge, 909 Texas Ave., Rice Lofts, Downtown HoustonAnother change coming to the Rice Lofts, now that an entity connected to the Trammell Crow family has purchased the building from Post Properties, and apartment-management duties are being turned over to Greystar: The State Bar and Lounge, which spilled out onto the Travis St. side of the former Rice Hotel’s second-floor deck facing Texas Ave., is shutting down, sources tell Swamplot. Last call will be late Saturday night. Photo: The State Bar

05/02/14 5:00pm

MAYBE WE SHOULD ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS Former Home of the Usual, 5519 Allen St. at T.C. Jester Blvd., Cottage Grove, HoustonWhat’s happened to the bar building by the Cottage Grove railroad tracks at 5519 Allen St. at the corner of T.C. Jester since lesbian bar The Usual shut down there in February? Perhaps a sale of the property and something new going in — but what? ”Looks like someone bought the former home of The Usual,” reports a reader who drove by the site Friday and sent in this photo. “For sale sign is gone and there were workers in there today.” [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/11/14 12:15pm

Vacant Strip Center, 4122 Willowbend Blvd. at Craighead Dr., Westwood, Houston

Former Carolyn's Bar at Vacant Strip Center, 4122 Willowbend Blvd. at Craighead Dr., Westwood, HoustonCarolyn’s, the dive bar at the corner of Craighead and Willowbend Blvd. across the train tracks from the Willowbend subdivision closed sometime around the end of last month, a reader notes. Back in 2008, the bar at 10711 Craighead Dr. won the Houston Press award for Best Hidden Bar. For years, Carolyn’s (pictured at right, behind the “canopy”) was the sole remaining tenant in the dilapidated but once-stylin’ classic 1959 strip center with vintage details stretched along that corner. Now, reports the reader, it appears the 18,600-sq.-ft. center is entirely empty — despite the remaining sign facing Willowbend for the Fruit of the Spirit Community Church (“Developing Fruitful Lives,” above).


Everybody Out of the Strip Center
04/09/14 10:00am

Rendering of the Proposed Collection on Kirby, 3200 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The website of New York real estate firm Thor Equities has switched out the renderings for the full-block Kirby Collection mixed-use development it’s been threatening to build on the west side of Kirby Dr. between Colquitt and W. Main St. for almost 6 years now. And the new Collection drawing collection does look pretty whizzy. It appears to show 2 levels of retail facing Kirby, a dozen-or-so-story office tower along Colquitt, and a taller squashed-cylinder-shaped residential tower on top of a parking-garage base hanging back toward Lake St.:


The Kirby Collection
03/11/14 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NEED MORE BARS HIGH IN THE SKY Sky Bar“It’s amazing to me how many people appreciate what Cody’s Skybar offered Houston, while it never seemed to inspire imitators. It’s remarkable how a little elevation can lend so much atmosphere to a place in a flat city like Houston. Even when the weather was hot & humid. It was a delight to hang out on the outdoor patio and enjoy the view. . . .” [Guido, commenting on How the Montrose ‘Skybar’ Building Demo Is Going Down] Illustration: Lulu

03/07/14 10:30am

Shepherd Place Office Tower, 2323 S. Shepherd, HoustonWhy would patrons at Rita Wanstrom’s Roaring 60s bar at 2305 S. Shepherd Dr. — just north of Fairview — regularly retreat to the bathroom to put their pants on backwards? In the late 1980s, the site of the nightspot, along with a few neighboring buildings, was replaced with the Shepherd Place office tower pictured above (an enterprise that reportedly bankrupted former governor John Connolly and a few other investors in the project). But back in the uh, roaring sixties, the bar was a famed lesbian hangout — subject to regular police raids focused on female zipper placement.


Lesbians in the Roaring 60s
02/24/14 11:00am

LATEST EXPLETIVE-LADEN, LANDLORD-BLAMING, BAR-CLOSING TIRADE COMES FROM THE USUAL The Usual, 5519 Allen St., Cottage Grove, HoustonCottage Grove lesbian bar The Usual shut down its patio-by-the-railroad-tracks location last week, and marked the occasion with a Facebook announcement declaring enough was enough: “We planned on remodeling but our landlord refused to pay for all the roofing and electrical needs (as most of you know was much needed) . . . we decided to say fuck it and we will do it and make The Usual look better than ever . . . but then we got news that our renewal would double our rent and our landlord is such a dick he knows we can’t afford that and he is so greedy and wanting to sell the property and could not because we were still there, he knew he had to get us out . . . well . . . we fought and fought but unfortunately had to make the decision to move . . . we will be absent for a short while but will return soon and can’t wait to see all of you!” A mysterious post on Yelp from a first-time reviewer points to an alternative — or perhaps additive — explanation for the sudden closing of the bar at 5519 Allen St., facing onto T.C. Jester: a TABC license that had expired at the end of last November. A more recent Facebook posting declares The Usual is “On the hunt for our NEW location!!! Only going bigger and better!!” [The Usual on Facebook, via Culturemap] Photo: LoopNet

02/12/14 2:45pm

Future Site of Hunky Dory and Foreign Correspondents, 1819 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights

With today’s knocking of the Salmex Auto & Truck Sales building at 1819 N. Shepherd Dr. (pictured above from earlier today), the great used-car-lot-to-restaurant-row transformation of North Shepherd begins! Er . . . continues. On the site of this spot will flourish: a parking lot! And a pretty big one. But further in on 18th St. is the planned site of Foreign Correspondents, which bills itself as a “farm to table” Thai restaurant. Further in and attached to it will be tavern and whiskey bar Hunky Dory from the operators of DownHouse and Feast alumnus Richard Knight.


Used Cars to Whiskey, Farm to Table
01/06/14 10:00am

Marfreless, 2006 Peden St., River Oaks Shopping Center, HoustonThe new owners of Marfreless have updated the website of the shuttered River Oaks Shopping Center bar to indicate that it plans on reopening in January. Which makes sense, since the previously promised summer 2013 re-launch date for the 2006 Peden St. location has come and gone. A comment appended back in December to a Facebook photo album showing renovations of the signless institution’s famed dimly lit interior provides an actual opening date: “probably” January 17th. What delights await inside? A unisex restroom with 2 stalls, chandeliers, plus new VIP areas carved out of what were previously storage rooms: “There will be curtains upstairs that you can pull closed for privacy or open for groups. Or . . . pull closed for groups, if that’s what you’re into.” The stairs, however, will still offer the “same place to hit your head.”

Photo: Marfreless

Behind the Blue Door
12/30/13 1:45pm

5746 Larkin St., Cottage Grove, Houston

5746 Larkin St., Cottage Grove, HoustonReader Seán Judge notes the recent transformation of a warehouse property on Larkin St. near the corner of Sherwin in Cottage Grove, where something that “LOOKS like a little restaurant” is taking shape from a once-ramshackle property presided over by a metal building: “There’s a bunch of ‘parking lot’ space on one side, and what look like bistro tables sitting outside the building,” he notes. “It is definitely looking at least bar/loungey with a lot of liquor, cushy seats, tables outside. And a sign on the door saying ‘Private Party: Thank you. Management.’ . . . Any idea what may be going in there?”


Light Metal
12/23/13 11:15am

AND YET ANOTHER BAR IS COMING TO MAIN ST.’S HAPPENING 300 BLOCK 312 Main St., Downtown HoustonThe stretch of Main St. downtown between Prairie and Congress that’s been nominated for the Ground-Floor Retail Award in this year’s Swampies will soon have another bar to add to its growing collection. A food-and-mixed-drinks establishment named Bar Materia — at least that’s the proposed name — is planned for the spot shown at left at 312 Main. Last week, the folks behind Anvil, Hay Merchant, and Underbelly announced plans to open The Nightingale Room a couple doors down at 308 Main St., downstairs from Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge. [Swamplot inbox; Eater Houston] Photo: Downtown District