I don’t know what nightlife’s like in Dallas, but here, I’m glad to see things spiffing up a bit. Variety’s the spice of life and all. There are a lot of folks to thank – the club owners, the pretty people, the valets – but one mover and shaker who in particular deserves kudos is physical mover and shaker Jarrett McMorris.
In September the 23-year-old Fort Worth native started a club security company, VIP Axcess, and now, three months into it, some of downtown’s hottest swank spots, including Aqua Lounge, Bar Nine, and Bent, have signed on as clients. McMorris’ prime directive is to keep the troublemakers out, sure, but also to look good while doing it.
McMorris has 23 guys on his self-proclaimed “pretty-boy security” team. Most of them also double as little helpers: barbacking/bartending, cleaning, dee-jaying, whatever.
As far as qualifications go, McMorris has plenty. He has trained in kickboxing and wrestling for years, he says he knows “verbal Tai Kwan Do,” and, most importantly, he’s 6’2″ and 270 lbs.
McMorris said he got the idea for VIP Axcess early last year after working a few gigs for the Wreck Room’s muscle, Roderick Dove. “Roderick showed me the ropes,” McMorris said, adding that, since there are no bouncer businesses in town, he “saw a chance to provide a better quality bouncer than what’s out there.”
Granted, working the door at clubs like Aqua and Bent isn’t as potentially troublesome as checking egos at, say, a biker bar or some billiards roadhouse. But McMorris and his handsome ex-military detail do help nurture the upscale ambiance that most of his clients are going for. He wants his bouncers to be firm but non-threatening. “I want my guys to remember the regulars,” McMorris said. “Keep it friendly. … This isn’t Dallas.”
So far, the scuffles have been limited to the occasional drug dealer and, more frequently, drunk guys harassing people. Still, McMorris’ policy is to sympathize with both sides of the argument.
“We really hate getting the cops involved,” he said. “We’re concerned for the safety of everyone. We understand that people get in a bad mood, so we really try to let the people walk [away]. … As long as there’s no alcohol involved, I can talk them down. And I think my size helps me in that field.”
Clubland’s lost a great one. A founding father of the West Seventh Street club scene, Gilbert Vera, 44, was found dead in his apartment near the Cultural District a couple of weeks ago. The cause of death, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office, was liver failure.
“He was the ultimate host,” said nightlife impresario Brian Forella (Embargo, The Wreck Room). “He’s the one who showed me the ropes. When I opened the Wreck [almost 10 years ago], he got me through the first year and a half. … I’d never been in the bar business before, and Gilbert showed me stuff I just didn’t know how to do.”
Vera was best known for getting Westside spots hot. In the ’90s, he orchestrated the transformation of Michael’s Ancho Chile Bar from simply a great restaurant to a great restaurant and the place to see and be seen. And his A Bar is remembered as the craziest nightspot Fort Worth has ever seen. “He was ahead of his time in Fort Worth, for sure,” Forella said.
Vera was born in Alice, a small town just west of Corpus Christi. He moved to Fort Worth about 20 years ago and began his Clubland apprenticeship at the City Club. The consummate classy guy, Vera was hardly ever seen without his short black hair slicked back, black wire-rim glasses, and professional-casual clothes. (No jeans or flip-flops.) He was thin and average-height, but he had a quiet, smoky voice and a presence that exuded authority, no matter where he was. In a nightclub, restaurant, or Bass Hall, he just looked like he was in charge. He was also quick to buy you a drink, and he liked talking about Fort Worth’s renaissance. He is survived by his teenage daughter and will be dearly missed.
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