If you were cruising down University Drive last week, with the ragtop down so your hair can blow, you would have spied a pile of rubble where the original incarnation of Studio Eighty once stood. Much like 1990 and Vanilla Ice marked the end of an era in music, razing this building ushered out a period in the Cultural District when being over the age of 30 didn’t preclude finding a place to dance.
When the 1980s-themed Studio Eighty opened in the space formerly home to Sardines Ristorante Italiano in 2011, it quickly became a popular nightclub and happy hour spot. The small dance floor was chock full of locals looking for more Prince and less Puff Daddy. The club stayed busy until a rogue hookah pipe embraced the Talking Heads and reportedly started burning down the house in the middle of the night.
A fire-damaged building failed to stop owner Jeffery Murtha from getting the party going again. Several months ago, Studio Eighty busted a move to downtown Fort Worth, taking over the old Vee Lounge address on the corner of 5th and Taylor streets. The new site is cavernous in comparison, sporting three bar sections over two levels and an outdoor patio. Bigger is better for large groups that can now reserve dance-floor adjacent seats to people-watch strangers doing The Running Man.
The main bar sticks to the decade of decadence theme, showing videos and spinning tunes from the time when “Push It” wasn’t instructional to MTV’s Teen Mom 2 stars. A second club space dubbed The Fashion Lounge sports a runway-style dance floor and contemporary music when it’s not in use for special events. The second floor’s piano-themed bar will be converted over to a member lounge in the upcoming months.
It’s not just the address that is different about the club’s new digs. The happy hour and kitchen popular with the after-work crowd are gone. Instead, be prepared to pop in only 7pm-2am Wednesdays through Saturdays. While Madonna may purr that she is going to “dress you up” in her “love,” you need more than fuzzy feelings to get past the door’s dress code, so leave the Houston Oilers hat and the Zubaz at home. (The jury is still out on O.G. Z Cavariccis.) The cover charge also reflects location inflation, coming in at $10 a pop on weekend nights.
I tend to keep my dramatic reenactments of Janet Jackson to the privacy of my home, but upcoming theme nights in The Fashion Lounge might pull me back into the Rhythm Nation. Starting February 1, Wednesday nights in the lounge will feature the LGBTQ-friendly “Britney’s Dollhouse” drag show and competition with an ’80s turnabout-style costume party in the main bar. Additionally, every Thursday, you can squeeze your Conway Twitty into some “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” when the 95.9-FM The Ranch takes over for throwback country night.
Fort Worth is not known for launching chain bars, but this spring Studio Eighty will open an outpost just down the street from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Webster, an upper middle-class suburb of Houston. The building formerly housed Bombshells, a military aviation-themed breastaurant. Beyond Houston, Murtha has plans to expand in other cities. As for specific locations, however, Murtha and company are making like The Go-Go’s and singing, “Our Lips Are Sealed.”