An avalanche of new gay bars greets the new year
by Nancy Ford
Houston’s gay bar scene ain’t what it used to be. This past year saw the demise of numerous Montrose clubs including Bartini, Decades, and perhaps most notable, Chances, that long-standing landmark for lesbians. The change in landscape was precipitated by the October 2009 closing of Mary’s, Naturally, if not the first, then arguably Texas’s most (in)famous gay bar.
Not exactly the ideal time to open a new gay bar, is it? Or maybe it’s exactly the right time. A veritable frenzy of gay nightclub openings is offering Houston clubbers a brand-new circuit where they can see and be seen.
Familiar faces in the Houston club scene are the driving force behind F Bar, which most recently housed the fashionable midtown nightclub Saez & Zouck. Randall Jobe and Alec D’Storm are the club’s new director of events/public relations and general manager, respectively.
The club is the brainchild of mk202 Entertainment LLC president/CEO Irwin Palchick. No stranger to the club scene, Palchick owned Galveston’s ’90s-era gay clubs Garbo’s and Evolution, as well as restaurants including the Shrimp House and Sazarac’s. Palchick’s partner in business and in life, designer Aike Jamal, is also providing innovative ideas for the club’s re-do.
In addition to upscale appointments like the spacious patio with a fire pit, F Bar also offers black and white marble and slate components accenting a glass-enclosed quiet bar, VIP area, and express bar accented with multiple chandeliers. The architect for F Bar is Albert Marichal, who designed the Laura Rathe Art Gallery and won the 2007 Design in Architecture from the American Institute of Architects and whose brother, Gerard Marichal, president of Forest Design Build, is the project manager.
“After 23 years in the bar business, I can honestly say that I have never seen a venue that combines so many outstanding features to cater to many tastes,” Jobe says. “It is elegant without being pretentious and will define for Houston the term ‘boutique clubbing.’”
Open Tuesday through Sunday, F Bar features top DJs and live music events. Additionally, to assure that the club maintains its Montrose sensibility, Jobe says a vital focus of the club is to “give back” to the community that supports it.
“It is very important to me to continue working with the community to produce fundraising events for as many organizations as possible,” he says. “Irwin and Alec are on the same page. We feel you can only expect to be supported by the community by showing support for the community, and we are looking to foster relationships with other GLBT proprietors.”
As OutSmart went to press, the gentlemen were aiming for a February 23 preview opening for the club, with the official grand opening celebration February 26, “barring any complications.” 202 Tuam St., fbarhouston.com.
Good times and laughter return to the space that once housed the Laff Stop, but this time with a decidedly gay twist, with Vue. Woody Gould is expanding the influence of his popular Waugh Drive club, Guava Lamp, with the acquisition of the ample space that once housed Houston’s premiere comedy club. Scheduled to open in early 2011, Vue features multiple bars and a dance format. 526 Waugh Dr.,
Located on the ground floor of one of Houston’s longest-established highrise condominium towers, Mainstage opened in mid-December, filling downtown’s gay dance club and live-entertainment needs. With its “Red Room” membership room and “Blue Room” main showroom, Mainstage focuses on high-end service attracting a national audience. “And that includes our bartenders, staff, and security,” co-owner Nick Sabula says.
With its spacious dance lounge and New York-style feel, Mainstage also intends to present out-of-town dancers and touring musical acts, Sabula says. Mainstage starts the week with Weiner Wednesdays, serving free hot dogs and popcorn while screening movie musicals and classic television series on video screens, and offers drink specials, DJs, and other enticements through Sundays. 2016 Main St., leavetheboyfriend
Just down the Metro line from Mainstage, Club Curve, a new, upscale, dual-level club, also opened in mid-December, with a strict “no hats, no T-shirts, no sneakers, no shorts” policy, and offers “Gay Night” on Thursdays. 410 Main St., houstonclubcurve.com.
The winds of gay-bar change are blowing outside Loop 610 as well. Located in Spring, The Room, managed by Jane Summa (formerly of the Ranch Hill Saloon), opened December 11, and is “the newest thing on the north side,” Summa says. Famed local DJs Triple-S, Dylan Barnes, and Renee Gonzales rotate to provide the music on Retro Fridays, New Mix Saturdays, and Trash Disco Sundays. Offering a lounge feel with couches and multiple television screens, pool tables, and an ample dance floor, The Room plans its official grand opening celebration in February. Open daily with happy-hour prices, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. 4915 FM 2920, #148, theroombar.net.
On the southern end of I-45, Bar None offers stylish, modern surroundings with a wraparound veranda framing some of the best sunsets on Galveston Island. Located in the highly rated Diamond Beach resort, Bar None boasts a luxurious Miami Beach lounge attitude with sleek appointments. 10327 Seawall Blvd., galveston.com/barnone.
Despite a flurry of new gay-bar activity, Houston lesbians have limited choices of venues designed specifically for them. With the closing of Chances in November, The Usual Pub in the Heights now stands as Houston’s lone watering hole for gay women. Of the nightclubs included in this report and as of this writing, only F Bar has designated a slot in its weekly calendar—Wednesday nights—as catering to lesbians, though all clubs describe themselves as welcoming of all with possible plans for outreach to female clientele under consideration. Meanwhile, local lesbians flock to theme parties like Kindred Spirits Foundation events, Lesbian Health Initiative–Houston’s Valentine’s Gala, A2 40 Euphoria, AssistHers’ Decadent Desserts, producer Julie Mabry’s Girl Jam, and similar gatherings at rotating venues that often also act as fundraisers for women’s health concerns.