Already removed from the Outpost Tavern near the corner of Nasa Parkway and Egret Bay Blvd. by the time it burned to a wet crisp last Friday: all the signed astronaut photos and NASA memorabilia that used to line its walls — plus electrical and gas service to the building. That the fire occurred despite the absence of those last two items “automatically makes the fire suspicious,” Webster fire chief Patrick Shipp told the Bay Area Citizen earlier this week. But when did all those items make their exits?
Late last year, proprietor Stephanie Foster announced the storied longtime JSC hangout — it was known as the U-Joint back in the moon-mission days — would be closing in January because new landowners wanted to build “something else” on the site. But a few weeks’ worth of farewell bashes had to be canceled after Foster and her husband found themselves locked out of the building on January 16th. Foster’s landlord, Walter Wright, told Houston Chronicle beer blogger Ronnie Crocker at the time that he and his brothers owned the building, the business, and its contents, and that they planned to move the former army barracks building to a strip of land they owned 100 feet of way — and reopen it as a family restaurant. Wright said he felt he needed to shutter the building immediately because of concerns that valuable NASA memorabilia were already being removed:
Wright said the property has been tied up in court for the two years since his cousins sold their half-interest to investors who had other plans for the Webster location. He said no rent was paid during that time. . . .
Foster said she owns the name and state business license as well as the liquor and health department licenses. She said her mother bought the Outpost from an earlier owner, and that she bought it from her mother. . . .
Foster said she paid rent before the sale, to the other property owners, as part of a verbal lease agreement. She said no one had come to her asking for rent in the last two years, and she did not know who to send it to.
She also vowed to fight to keep Wright from reopening as the Outpost.
“If he thinks he is going to use the Outpost Tavern name,” she said, “absolutely this is going to court.”
But by early in previous month, the walls of the bar had already become noticeably bare; a bartender told the editor of a space-exploration history website at the time that much of the memorabilia had been moved into storage “to avoid it being stolen,” and that a few items would be cycled on display “as the owners decide what to do with everything.”
From the closing in January until June, according to a website for fans of the bar, Foster ran a webstore selling Outpost memorabilia. In February, she noted in a posting that the purchasers of the land the Outpost Tavern was sitting on had plans to open a gas station on the corner site, and she wished them well. On Saturday, after the fire, she posted a note to the bar’s Facebook fan page thanking the people who had sent her texts and messages:
It was very painful for all of us to watch it sit there, rotting and breaking into pieces before our very eyes. No one who really knew what the OP was would ever …let that happen, therefore I am glad that no one like that has our treasure anymore. I am just so thankful nothing we care about was hurt or destroyed in that fire. Just the building. The Outpost Tavern, name and treasures, could pop up again someday.
- Friday night fire levels Outpost Tavern [Bay Area Citizen]
- Popular NASA hangout Outpost burns down [Galveston County Daily News]
- The end of the Outpost Tavern [Beer, TX]
- Update [Friends of the OutPost]
- The Outpost Tavern, astronaut hangout [collectSPACE]
- Previously on Swamplot: Openings and Closings: Lost Outpost of the Space Cowboys