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The legendary J&J Blues Bar is now the site of The Tin Panther. Photo by Scott Latham.

If you’ve heard a high, mournful sound coming from the average Fort Worth drinker lately, you would swear some of his bars are taking him to divorce court instead of closing. Add to that the collective tendency around here to lash out against the recent spate of unauthentic and/or non-local chain bars, a condition I call ADHD, -“Don’t Austin/Dallas/Houston/Denton my Fort Worth, bro.” All of this is a recipe for some emotional weepiness. 

Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of closings of bars oft considered part of the established drinking culture of Fort Worth: 7th Haven, 8.0 Restaurant & Bar, Capital Bar, The Cellar, The Mule, Paddy Reds, Pour House, Rainbow Lounge, Rick O’Sheas, and as of Dec 4, The Grotto. 

All of these longstanding watering holes have spoiled us, but the truth is bars don’t usually hang around for a decade or more. For every longtime local saloon owner like Brad Hensarling, Brian Forella, or Glen Keely, there are 27 who cashed out at year three and rode off into the Tequila Sunrise. But take heart, as there’s another batch hopping in the saddle right now that is vying for your heart and drinking dollars.

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When Paddy Red’s shuttered last year, I was bummed. But the old bar was in serious need of some cosmetic surgery, and it has gotten exactly that in the form of the recently opened The Winchester (903 Throckmorton St). Shaun of the Dead references aside, the subterranean space could be used to hole up during a zombie attack, but far more likely it will serve as a legit English-style pub for a pint after work.

Speaking of updates that get a thumbs up from me, the old J&J Blues Bar passed through a few hands and is now open as The Tin Panther (937 Woodward St), a decidedly sweet new spot for lovers of dive bars staffed with folks who have serious street cred. 

With Capital Bar leaving the West 7th nightlife rotation, there are new options for going out to get undergrad-level blitzed. What was once a very odd hybrid of hair salon and nightclub in Esoterica has now been re-imagined as the Texas Republic Bar (945 Foch St). This new place is owned by the same group as Landmark Bar & Kitchen (3008 Bledsoe St), and they’re embracing the bigger-is-better thing, including 32-ounce “personal” pitchers of beer and “large-format drinks,” which is an adorable way of describing punch bowls of potentially poor decisions. Texas Republic also offers bottle service with sparklers, which I support because the combo of pyrotechnics and alcohol never fails to yield good people-watching opportunities.

ATX export Kung Fu Saloon (2818 Morton St) will also open just down the street. If the Fort Worth outpost is anything like its southern and eastern sisters (there’s also a Dallas location), just know going in that it’s about 2-to-1 odds on that you’ll witness or engage in sloppy public make-out sessions after copious Lemon Drop shots.

Over on the South Side, where I generally slink about because it’s better suited to my settled-down years, there’s a couple of soon-to-be-open joints worth noting. The original Twilite Lounge in Deep Ellum is a damn delightful amalgam of great live music and drinks with a Louisiana vibe. The Fort Worth location (212 Lipscomb St) is slated to be the same Sunday Saints-fan mecca with double the square footage. But if you like your music trapped in some vinyl grooves, upcoming Off the Record West (715 W Magnolia Av) is what would happen if Dallas’ Good Records hooked up with a bar. The Magnolia Avenue space will feature craft brews and cocktails and should, along with the other new hotspots around town, make up for the sudden loss of the old standbys.

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