At the risk of sounding like a third-rate psychic, give me a single strip of bacon and I’ll foretell the eventual doom of a bar business. A few years ago, I was sitting on the rooftop of the now-defunct Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge with three friends trying to figure out why it took 40 minutes to make some BLTs. They arrived with only lettuce, tomato, and a swipe of mayo, with a single strip of bacon broken up and distributed across four different plates.
I realized then the place would fold, because the owners/managers fell prey to that age-old problem of creating an unfocused business concept, which always leads to mediocrity in everything. Was Live Oak a music venue, a restaurant with elevated cuisine, a rooftop patio-driven nightspot, a casual neighborhood hangout, an event space, or a straight-up bar with typical snack foods to soak up beer? They didn’t know, and we couldn’t figure it out for them.
When I heard the Fairmount Music Hall would be taking over the space, I was itching to check it out, hoping new ownership would bring a tightly focused and well-executed concept to a venue with so much potential. On a recent visit, I instead had flashbacks to Live Oak’s ever-shifting identity. What we were led to expect about this place was nothing like my experience there.
The Fairmount Music Hall’s tagline is “sky bar & kitchen,” which conjures a casual food-and-booze vibe. However, in their promotional material, the PR folks told us to expect “craft cocktails” and “eloquent dining” (our emphasis). Assuming it was supposed to read “elegant dining,” the initial menu created by Chef Jordan Rogers did reflect higher-end, pricey Italian steakhouse fare. It’s a month later, and that concept was nowhere to be found on my visit. The vibe at Fairmount Music Hall actually seems to slant toward laidback Texas country, where you might expect to sprain your ankle slipping on a rogue potato skin instead of asphyxiating on a piece of $70 dry-aged Steak Florentine.
It would seem that either the chef realized his food was a poor fit for this Texas country-leaning bar or the owners realized they needed to go in a different direction. Either way, Rogers is no longer affiliated with Fairmount Music Hall. Instead, there’s a new menu of what appears to be ballpark food, complete with cringe-worthy names like the “Justin Timbersteak,” “Snoop Hot Doggy Dog,” and whatever the Hades is “Johnny Scooper Wings with Justin Ross Sauce.” As for the aforementioned “craft cocktails,” I never saw that menu, and the bartender managed to screw up my extremely simple drink request on a night when the place was dead.
On the upside, one of the biggest gripes about the Live Oak’s rooftop patio was its lack of restrooms upstairs, and this was solved to the wild applause of all patrons. There is also a screen to watch the show going on downstairs.
But in the strangest move I’ve ever seen in a live music venue, the back wall of the stage has been knocked down, leaving performers with their backs turned to a ground-level patio of drinkers and a large parking lot. It’s going to be a bad scene when the first bar fight or flying object goes crashing into a musician from behind.
Therein lies the crux of the issue with places like the Live Oak and Fairmount Music Hall: There doesn’t seem to be any reasoning behind the concept – nothing that ties it all together to create a unique experience. Secondly, if you promote your business to be one thing, it’s best not to make a patron check the sign on the window to make sure they are at the right place. Luckily, the Music Hall still has time to reassess their model and concentrate on what they actually do there.
The Fairmount Music Hall
1311 Lipscomb St, FW. 817-360-5642.