Ridglea Theater Still Moving Forward

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Posted February 13, 2012 by Anthony Mariani in Blotch

The Ridglea Theater dream has not died. It has merely changed shape.

Ever since Jerry Shults, owner of the Gas Pipe regional chain of smoke shops, purchased the historic Westside venue, saving it from becoming a bank, North Texas music lovers’ heads have been filled with dreams of a Granada West, a Fort Worth version of Dallas’ beautiful, historic Granada Theater, the site of shows by some of the world’s most progressive and important musical artists.

And while maybe one day the Ridglea’s stage will be trod upon by the likes of Bob Dylan and Beck, don’t hold your breath.

“I can see a lot of the theater’s shows being community-based fundraisers for the boys’ and girls’ clubs” and similar organizations, Shults said. “That’s what’s best for the theater, to plug into fundraisers for the community.”

Private events will also figure prominently into the Ridglea’s mission. “I’m being inundated with weddings and different social events,” Shults said. “The corporate events: I’ve started to get a lot more inquiries.”

The theater, he said, needs to be “very flexible and very functional –– that’s what we keep going back to: How can this venue stand the test of time and be a functional part of the community?”

Shults, an admitted music-venue novice, hasn’t killed the Granada West vision. In addition to the 1,400-people-capacity theater, the Ridglea complex includes two prime adjacent spaces: One can hold about 100 people and the other about 300. Based on the outcomes of performances in both rooms, Shults will adjust his plans for the theater stage accordingly.

The 100-person room, the Ridglea Bar, should be open “in a few weeks,” Shults said. The other room, Stage Right –– “the Lola’s venue,” Shults said, referencing the popular West 7th venue –– will open not long afterward, preceding by a couple of months the opening of Ridglea Theater proper.

“To do a 1,400 major theater –– that’s almost double the size of the Granada –– to get an act in there to pull 1,400 is not really viable, particularly with entertainment dollars being what they are,” Shults said. “The entertainment industry is not doing what I’d say super-duper these days. I’d rather take risks on venues of 100 and 300 at the beginning before I take a larger risk. I don’t know a lot of about live music venues, and I want to learn about smaller venues first before I go with larger venues. I want to make sure that the Ridglea Bar and Stage Right are doing something special before we start doing acts at main theater.”

The 300-person room was supposed to be a second iteration of The Moon, a popular and now-shuttered TCU-area bar-bar/venue whose fate had been up in the air as a result of some parking issues raised by Westside councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman and whose fate is now sealed after the city’s zoning commission approved a zoning change prohibiting bar-bars from the stretch of Camp Bowie Boulevard on which the Ridglea sits. “With everything that everybody’s saying today on Facebook and online, Zim has been very helpful in this process, and he’s very sympathetic to what I’m going through,” Moon owner Chris Maunder said. “I’m fine. The Moon’s still going to happen. People need to ease up on Zim.”

Maunder is currently “looking at new locations,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that things didn’t work out [at the Ridglea], but things are still moving forward and progressing nicely.”

City council will vote on the change on Tuesday, Mar. 6.

Neither parking nor bar-bars is an issue to Shults, who plans on serving food at the Ridglea complex and who also takes comfort in the fact that his complex is on the National Register of Historic Places, which means that he does not have to provide a minimum number of parking spaces per square foot –– unlike owners of non-historic buildings. “I already have a complete variance for parking for our registry status,” he said. “And, gosh, there’s so much parking in that area” –– not including the sea of spaces behind the theater, owned by real estate developer Michel Mallick.

Not long after Shults bought the complex, he engaged in discussions with Mallick over that parking area. “Mallick mentioned a price that was OK,” Shults recalled. “But then Zim got into picture, and the price skyrocketed.”

Shults said he couldn’t care less about Mallick’s spots now. “I would not say a deal is not going to be reached,” Shults said, “but I don’t need his parking right now.”

Shults is satisfied that his overall mission is complete. “I’m very proud about saving [the theater],” he said. “That was my goal. Money? That’s immaterial. I just want to ensure the longevity of the theater.

“The goal, really,” he continued, “was to make sure [the theater] didn’t get torn down, and that’s what my main goal is: to make sure it never gets torn down.”

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7 Comments


  1.  
    Phil Esteen

    How ironic is it that a countercultural symbol like The Gas Pipe – a business normally reviled and despised by ‘family valued’ Republicans – should try to save the Ridglea when all the various flavours of Cowtown’s right wing caucasians do nothing but obstruct and interfere?

    I’ll take Jerry Shults over a whole church full of Texas Republicans any day…and I’ll still have my wallet in my britches after the encounter.




  2.  
    Travis Lloyd

    First of all, what does race have to do with it? That is a straw-man issue if ever there was one.
    I can’t say for sure but I imagine Zim is probably reflecting the views of his Ridglea North constituents, which is what he is elected to do. I live in the neighborhood and was personally looking forward to the Moon moving over here but I’m not going to impugn a whole group of people over a local political decision.
    What part of town do you live in, by the way?




  3.  
    Fort Worthier

    @Phil Esteen

    So do you hate christians, white people and republicans or do you just really like stereotypes?

    Anyways, FtW really does need some better venues. Im sick of driving to Deep Ellum to listen to FtW bands




  4.  
    KAMP

    Zim only backed off at the last minute. I’d love to see him run out of town. True, he did sign off on it but only after he had no choice.

    And what does being conservative have to do with anything… it doesn’t. Conservatives are about business. Well it takes money to save buildings like this and that means either private donations or someone steps up and ponies up the dough. So please… let’s not start saying things that involve politics… not the proper forum.

    As for the Ridglea Bar… HECK YEA!!! I’m looking forward to that baby opening. Food, Beer, Bands… perfection! Bring back Addnerum or any of the great local tallents, I’m there!




  5.  
    Reader

    Zim was re-elected last May…and it’s times like these I wonder why. There should have been an effort to oust him. Maybe citizens will unite next time.




  6.  
    Don Young

    This is the same Zim who claimed to be in favor of tough regulations for gas drillers before elected then did a 180 and helped them continue their full assault on FW. He doesn’t walk the walk or talk the talk. But a non-polluting bab-bar? No way! He’s just another gashole in nice guy clothes. Same ol same ol good ol FW boy who punches his card at the Chamber of Commerce.




  7.  
    Alex Richards

    Fact Check,
    The only true statement that Jerry is correct about, is that he has NO experience or KNOWLEDGE of how to run a venue… period. It would take ANY of you less than 15 minutes to prove that the entertainment business dollars are being spent like never before for venues ranging from 200 to 20,000 people. And what do you do when you dont have the experience, well you certainly dont hire 2 of the 3 people that were solely responsible for the FAILURE of the venue in the first place. But in their case, when you’re spending someone elses money, success doesn’t enter the picture. From what I heard on the radio, Jerry was offered assistance by a SEASONED EXPERT to put the Ridglea back on the map, and he IGNORED the offer. Maybe you can get the son-in-law back in the picture and solidify an early death to the venue.





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