All bars except Hershey’s – Texas Monthly
This story is from Texas monthlythe archives of. We left it as it was originally published, without updating, in order to keep a clear history. Some of the language of this archival story regarding issues such as race and gender may not meet contemporary standards.
Ona Friday night in Dallas, five young guys were looking for a good time. Three of them had just left work. The other two were from out of town. Since they couldn’t decide where to go, they headed to Dallas Alley, where there was something for everyone.
They boogied at the Boiler Room nightclub, which was full of pretty Dallas girls (“dudes and babes” being the contemporary equivalent of “cats and chicks”). They dug out the mismatched furniture, the three pinball machines and the low ceiling of Froggy Bottoms, a nearby rhythm and blues club. They admired the high-tech gray and black decor of Take 5, where Extreme Heat got a crowd of dancers moving and urging, “Everyone Wang Chung tonight! They followed a long line into a brightly lit bar called Alley Cats, where loud preppies gathered around two pianists and sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand” with all the wit and enthusiasm the body puts in “Aggie War Hymn”. As happy as everyone seems, the guys didn’t want to stand in line for half an hour to share the experience. Three of them returned to Froggy Bottoms for a barbecue, one went to a nearby food court for souvlaki and a nerdy dog (he could never decide), and the other went dropped onto the long brick porch in the driveway to sip his beer and soak up the wonder of it all.
That night, the five young guys had seen the future of nightlife. Though they’ve been through several clubs, each with their own music, vibe, and crowd, they’ve never left the premises of Dallas Alley, a state-of-the-art fantasy world light years away. Corner Tavern: A restaurant and seven themed bars tucked into two renovated brick factory buildings in the historic West End. If the five guys hadn’t returned to the Boiler Room to admire the girls ‘mini skirts and sparkling backs, they might have heard the Storyville Stompers play Dixieland at the Plaza Bar, grab a burger and shake at Bubbles’ Beach Diner, roll Skee. Ball at the Tilt Carnival Arcade or a quiet tête-à-tête at the Backstage semi-private piano cocktail bar, all for an additional $ 5 ($ 3 at the start of the week). If they go back to the alley this month, the guys can snack tapas listening to Patsy Cline records in the new Santa Fe-style restaurant.
Seventeen thousand customers looking for a good time pass under the iconic neon arches of Dallas Alley every week, five thousand on a decent weekend night. In their wake, they will have left $ 10 million by the Dallas Alley first anniversary on October 18. In July, the stylized whiskey mall paid more liquor taxes than any establishment in the state – $ 87,417.90 to be exact – without even a special drink. In a matter of months, it became the flagship attraction of the West End Marketplace shopping center. In fact, Dallas Alley is the number one reason pedestrians walk downtown after dark for the first time in thirty years. The phenomenon occurred amid an economic crisis and during a particularly difficult time for nightclubs, in light of last year’s reestablishment of the minimum drinking age to 21, from the plus line. in addition to the society’s hardline against alcohol abuse, fear of AIDS and the rise of couch potato syndrome.
Choice is why Dallas Alley beats the odds, says Spencer Taylor, the steel-eyed 40-year-old who dreamed it all. A twenty-year veteran of bar wars in Fort Worth and Arlington, Taylor was the mastermind behind Billy Bob’s Texas, currently billed as the world’s greatest honky-tonk. Although Billy Bob’s height provided the stimulus for the rebirth of the historic Stockyards district of Cowtown, Taylor knew the volume wouldn’t be enough for Dallas Alley. Instead, he bet on variety through music. “We think the days of the bar geared towards singles, standing drinking and watching the opposite sex, are over,” says Taylor. “We’re trying to give people a lot more choice: choice through entertainment, choice through food, choice through activity. You have to give people a lot of stuff to do. On weekends and Mondays, when a large touring group plays a free concert on the outdoor patio, the crowds are so dense that at least three venues are constantly packed. These concerts have made it possible to attract teenagers, who cannot enter the clubs but can mingle in the alley.
The clean, well-lit environment has earned Dallas Alley its reputation as an adult Disneyland or, as the Dallas Watcher Put it on, a “Six Flags for Drunks”. Comparisons are backwards compliments at best, but Dallas Alley owes a lot to Walt Disney’s focus on organization. The club’s 227 freshly cleaned young employees look like stray Mouseketeers and could be mistaken for customers if not for the walkie-talkies stuck to their ears (as if they could actually hear something above the noise) . As optimistic and efficient as Dallas Alley is, Taylor thinks it’s not Disney enough: “Whenever we think we’re really good, we take our people to Epcot Center. This is where you find out very quickly that you don’t have everything together, including me.
Much like Disneyland, his project spawned many imitators. Some former employees cloned the multitheme concept at West Side Stories in Fort Worth. A group of investors, including club entrepreneur Richard Chase, has unveiled plans for a similar venture in Dallas that would include multiple clubs under one roof, dubbed Near Ellum. Taylor is considering projects in Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Charlotte, North Carolina. He thinks that wherever he goes he will have an advantage because Dallas Alley actually works. “Most festival markets make the mistake of strictly targeting the conventioneer and the tourist,” says Taylor. “Our intentions are to get at least 75% local traffic. The secret is in the mix and never lose sight of the local market.
It captivated the local clubgoer so effectively that several nightclubs in the city, especially in North Dallas, saw dramatic declines in activity. Recently, the 30-something Strictly Tabu, Redux (formerly Tango), Mistral and Razz-Ma-Tazz all closed their doors. Taylor insists he doesn’t want success at the expense of other nightclubs. “We came to play and we came to win, but I really like the competition to be successful,” he says. “For a while, I felt like the Dallas economic base was not deep enough and our competition was starting to hurt. But over the past month, I can feel the general mood, attitude, and psychic feeling on the street starting to change.
Oddly enough, some competitors agree. The Stoneleigh P., an Oak Lawn area institution, may provide the philosophical opposite to the programmed fun atmosphere of Dallas Alley, but co-owner RW Winburn is happy to see it: “More power for them. We felt alone on this side of town and they helped bring people to the area. I’m not sure we appeal to their clientele as we’re not a fancy light nightclub and we don’t make fruit drinks. Redux’s Ellen Grant plans to reopen to Deep Ellum but loves what Taylor has brought to the West End nonetheless. “Dallas Alley is the entertainment remote,” she says. “That’s what the public wants. It even brainwashed me. I think it’s wonderful. But I would hate to see the kind of places that showcase local and regional talent disappear. “
For all the music, don’t expect a compilation of bands from Dallas Alley to follow the recent Island Record album. Sounds of Deep Ellum album. As Grant points out, “The Top Forty attitude prevails over there, but it’s Dallas. The majority of Dallas clubbers are the disco group, and they don’t care as much about the quality of the entertainment in a place as they do about the quality of the buffet line and the guys and girls there.
The five young guys won’t make Dallas Alley their full-time hangout. Eventually, the girls will move on to a newer, more trendy place. Guys will either look for a place with more history, more character and less frills, or give up drinking altogether. Even in Dallas, some people need a sense of belonging, a sense of belonging when they soak up. Dallas Alley can’t duplicate that. He probably won’t add Latin either. joint club or dance hall zydeco, given the homogeneous clientele. So while Dallas Alley is nowhere near as euro-chic as the Starck Club across the freeway, as hip and arty as Deep Ellum, or as friendly as Stoneleigh P. and Poor David’s Pub , it drew the crowds by selling easy access, choice and cleanliness. And if you’re new to town, travel little, or have little time to nurture a long-term relationship with a drinking establishment – as is the case with the five youngsters and much of the population – this is a powerful decoy indeed.