Just when you thought downtown had lost some of its luster, along come a handful of new 76102 joints to object soundly.

For starters, scheduled to open on Halloween weekend is Aqua Lounge. Not to be confused with the defunct meat-market called the Aqua Bar, the downtown hot-spot during the Clinton administration, the Lounge will be located on the second floor of the building that houses Bennigan’s, on Houston Street. Construction is under way. The man behind the new place is William Powell, who once ran Eight Lounge in Dallas, Ruby Lounge in Addison, and is currently helping Tim Love (Duce, Lonesome Dove) open a restaurant in New York City. Though directed at young urban professionals, the Aqua Lounge, Powell said, isn’t going to try to be cool. For one thing, there won’t be the incessant boom-siss-boom-siss of generic house music.

“We’ll definitely cater to the downtown business crowd,” he said. “Later in the evening will get hipper, edgier, but you’ll be able to have a cocktail and a conversation without having to talk over a DJ.”


Right down the street from Aqua Lounge are two other swanky hangouts, both owned by Jarrett Joslin. The nightclub Bar Nine opened earlier this year, and the restaurant Saporé is currently undergoing a facelift. Executive chef Erik Boyle said the eatery “temporarily” closed last week. When it re-opens eventually, Saporé may not have any food and will be all nightclub. Not that we don’t need another classy joint, but Saporé served up some pretty good grub that we’re gonna miss.

Speaking of food, former owner/operator of Blade’s Prime Chop House, Blade Haddock is putting a restaurant he was planning on hold (“Cuts Like a Knife,” July 12, 2006) to help give Grape Escape a much-needed redesign. Working as a consultant, Haddock intends to make dramatic changes in both the menu and décor. The refurbished place will be called Giant and will open next month.

Not all of the newcomers, however, are going to be high-end. While the dressed-up crowd is sipping martinis at Aqua et al., locals who prefer brews, football, and sandwiches can grab a spot at the Houston Street Bar & Patio, next door to Bar Nine. HSBP is scheduled to open on November 1.

One last note: Local celebrity sommelier Ceferino “Cef” Zambrano is leaving Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse after 10 years of service. What will the Panamanian do next? “Working on a wine project” is all he would say. Best of luck to you, Cef.

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