COMMENT OF THE DAY: NEED MORE BARS HIGH IN THE SKY “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
Why 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.
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Lesbians in the Roaring 60s
LATEST EXPLETIVE-LADEN, LANDLORD-BLAMING, BAR-CLOSING TIRADE COMES FROM THE USUAL Cottage 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
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.
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Used Cars to Whiskey, Farm to Table
The 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.”
Behind the Blue Door
Reader 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?”
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AND YET ANOTHER BAR IS COMING TO MAIN ST.’S HAPPENING 300 BLOCK The 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
A city permit was approved last week to convert a portion of the building that once housed the A&M Pet Clinic at 5010 Dincans St. into a wine bar. The 2-story building is across the street from the new apartment block Hanover is completing between Bissonnet and North Blvd. just west of Kirby Dr. The Swamplot reader who visited the closing-after-New-Year’s West U recycling center just to the north of the property finds the posted TABC notice, which identifies the applicant as Catering Plus. Ray Memari, co-owner of the Antica Osteria Italian Restaurant on Bissonnet just west of Greenbriar, purchased the building last year.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLUB SOME TIME AGO “Wow . . . far cry from the Emo’s and Club Some days that were housed on the first floor. Anyone remember the algae stricken pool as well as skateboard half pipe that was in the courtyard? Or better yet, the outdoor bathrooms that had no doors and long lines . . . shy guys need not apply. Those were the days. [AmyHM, commenting on A Serene Single Bedroom in an Un-Orphaned Villa Serena] Illustration: Lulu
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
THE RETURN OF MARFRELESS It was only temporary, it turns out, the closing of Houston’s infamous den of PDA: Though reports in March suggested that River Oaks Shopping Center landlords Weingarten had hiked the rent, described cheekily in a press release by Marfreless as “the rising cost of doing business,” it appears that the bar that looks the other way has found new owners and will reopen with the same management in the same spot this summer — and they’ll be fixing up the place, too, they’ve announced in a press release that’s fairly dripping with innuendo: “All this comes with a complete renovation — from wires and carpet to the furniture you . . . sit on. You can expect an updated feel with the same Marfreless experience you’ve come to love. And don’t worry, our upstairs seating and iconic blue door will remain.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user jmcgeough
RUDYARD’S OWNER BUILDING BIGGER BAR IN SHADY ACRES The owner of Rudyard’s British Pub in Montrose has announced that she’ll be building TikTok, a bar, restaurant, and venue for live music in Shady Acres — and, apparently, this new one will be a lot more building than what you get at Rudyard’s. Owner Leila Rodgers tells the Houston Business Journal that TikTok “is expected to have a capacity of 750 to 800 people. She said she expects to be able to host 450 to 500 people in the performance area and 250 to 300 in the restaurant area.” Rudyard’s is at 2010 Waugh Dr. When it opens next summer, TikTok will be at 1412 W. 20th St., near the intersection of W. 20th and T.C. Jester Blvd. — that’s just around the corner from the Hubcap Grill. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Panoramio user hermieb
The verdicts handed down this week in the court case connected to a dispute between the owners of 3 bars carved out of the former Settegast Kopf funeral home on Kirby Dr. at Colquitt, their landlord, and residents of the subdivision that surrounds it are a tad complicated. As a result of the jury decisions, neighborhood homeowners are now asking the judge to force 2 of the bars — Roak and Hendricks Pub — to stop selling alcohol. One of the jurors in the case offers Swamplot readers a detailed explanation of the decision:
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FUNERAL BARS GET THEIR DAY IN COURT The long-simmering legal battle between 3 bars carved out of the remains of the former Settegast-Kopf funeral home on Kirby and 51 nearby residents is scheduled to go to trial next week. The residents and association of the David Crockett subdivision, which includes Roak, Hendricks Pub and Eatery, and OTC Patio Bar within its boundaries — as well as tony Ferndale, Virginia, and Lake streets west of Kirby — are seeking to enforce the neighborhood’s deed restrictions, which prohibit alcohol sales and activities considered a “nuisance.” In a countersuit, the bar owners are alleging racial discrimination, complaining that the neighborhood has not enforced the same restrictions on the Owl Bar and Cafe Express, both of which also serve alcohol. Bar attorney Paul Pilibosian tells reporter David Kaplan that the bars’ lease will expire in a year and a half. The bars do not currently have an option to renew, but Pilibosian says they are seeking ways to stay longer in their current locations. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Roak pool: Sarah Tressler
EAST END ALCOHOL REPORT A reader from the Country Club Place-Idylwood area checks in with rumors, some news, and questions: “A neighbor who does not do computers had a co-worker tell him that there is to be a ‘Latino topless bar’ open soon near Idylwood. For the life of me, I cannot see where he’s talking about. Of course, the definition of ‘near Idylwood’ is the variable. How can I find out where it will be and if this is true? Are alcohol permits available online? The old Helena Motel property on Wayside at 45 is being developed slowly and right now, a Chick fil A is being built next to the relatively new Taco Cabana. I can’t really see an adult entertainment place going in near that location although that block with the corner is prime for a strip shopping center. Demolition of the old Oshman’s property for Walmart is progressing quickly. Last I heard there was still some question as to whether or not this Walmart would sell beer & wine. The back side of the property is too close to the AAMA School on Maxwell. I imagine a lot of people will be unhappy if they can’t do one stop shopping there. Can you offer some suggestions as to where to begin my sleuthing on the topless bar?” [Swamplot inbox]