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Getting In to Michael’s Outpost

Entertainment manager Bryan Wade previews the piano bar’s dramatic new look.

Bryan Wade at Michael’s Outpost (photo by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine)

Michael’s Outpost is one of the oldest gay bars in Houston. Although it’s on a busy street at the southern edge of the iconic Montrose neighborhood, many young people and Houston newbies have never heard of the bar. Entertainment and promotions manager Bryan Wade, 33, wants to change that. With a slew of new upgrades being put in place this month, he is hoping to welcome the regulars back and bring new faces in to the Outpost.

“With Michael’s Outpost being a destination bar that’s not within walking distance to the other gay bars, our goal is to deliver [an immersive] experience that will keep you entertained and having an enjoyable time all day and night,” Wade says.

“The bar just needed a little bit of a facelift. Most people fear change, but I embrace it.”

—Bryan Wade

Wade, who is gay, began working at Michael’s Outpost four years ago as a bartender after determining that the corporate world was not for him. He developed a love for Houston’s drag culture, and during his first visit to Michael’s Outpost as a customer, he was introduced to Dessie’s Drag Race All-Stars, a popular local drag competition. His professional background includes video production and communications, and these days his duties have expanded beyond the well.

“My primary responsibilities include overseeing all entertainment—currently featuring four drag shows a week, three piano nights, and a new karaoke night—as well as helping to rebuild our social-media pages and website,” Wade says.

Michael’s Outpost has been family operated since the passing of its original owner and namesake, Michael Gaitz. Gaitz’s sister, Theresa McKinney, and her husband, Leon, made several changes to the bar when they took it over, all of which were in keeping with her brother’s wishes. When Theresa died in 2019, their brother Charles and his daughter, Tonya Gaitz, along with Wade, became the driving force for the current changes that will bring the iconic bar into a new era.

“The bar just needed a little bit of a facelift. Most people fear change, but I embrace it,” Wade says. “The old setting worked for the bar area, but all the entertainment that Michael’s has built over the years didn’t get highlighted in a way that enhanced the performances. [With the new] stage for our drag shows, even karaoke singers can be found front and center under the stage lights.”

The renovations also include creating a piano cabaret room that will have better acoustics and make the piano bar a destination that will draw people into the space.

“We have legendary [piano talent] at Michael’s. Bill Bartlett, Jerry Atwood, and Clay Howell have over 100 years on the keys between them,” Wade notes.

Once the piano cabaret room is complete, the piano will be situated to highlight the performers, while new video screens will be visible from anywhere in the bar so everyone can enjoy the music.

“Our drag shows feature over twenty entertainers throughout the week. On Mondays, you can catch The Broad’s Way hosted by Regina Thorne-DuBois, which features drag as well as live vocal performances. Tuesday brings Movie Muffs hosted by Muffy Blake Vanderbilt III, who gives you a campy retelling of movie plots. Friday offers Modern Nostalgia, music from the 20th century and highlighting different decades each week. Saturday closes out our

week of entertainment with EyeCons, Houston’s longest-running celebrity-illusion show which will celebrate its tenth year of production later this year!” Wade says.

Like all of the bars in Houston, Michael’s Outpost has been impacted by the COVID-19 capacity restrictions. Health and safety considerations were also a part of the renovation plans.

“[Since we are smaller] than most bars, we are running on a very limited capacity that is closely watched by all staff. We have limited seating that is spaced out to accommodate social distancing. Our goal is for anyone who comes into Michael’s to feel safe. All staff are in masks for their entire shift, and customers are asked to wear a mask while not drinking or eating our delicious snacks. The cheese sticks are my favorite!” Wade adds.

Once you are safely seated, you can expect some great drinks and eats in addition to great entertainment.

“Our bartenders are happy to treat you with a delicious cocktail, and we will soon be partnering with local breweries to bring in new beer. Supporting local is something we pride ourselves on when it comes to capturing new things for Michael’s,” Wade notes. “We are also working with new food vendors to offer different types of food for our customers. We currently have Grape Taco, True Bark BBQ, and we are working on creating a steak night as well.”

Wade clearly loves Michael’s Outpost, as well as the bar’s unique place in Houston’s LGBTQ history. He wants to offer a warm “Welcome back” to the regulars and extend an invitation to newcomers making their first trip. “I want people to know we are here and we are being as safe as possible as we continue to push through this pandemic and someday return to some normality.  P.S., wear your masks!”

For more information on Michael’s Outpost, visit facebook.com/michaelsoutpost.

This article appears in the March 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.


Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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