In December of 2017, Aardvark owner Danny Weaver announced that he would be closing his Berry Street venue, which would be taken over by Christ Chapel, a mega-church based in Arlington Heights. Despite publicizing the end date as January 31, the bar stayed open. But as of Wednesday, April 11, the ’Vark is officially closing. Christ Chapel, which had been holding Sunday college ministry services there since 2009, will continue to occupy the space for the next four Sundays. After that, the ministry will be leaving for the summer. Whether or not it returns in the fall is a question mark, since nobody has leased the building yet.
Ben Fuqua, pastor of the church’s young adult ministry, told me his church should have a better idea of what they’ll be able to do there in the coming weeks, but as of this writing, the fate of the building that was the Aardvark’s home is up in the air. No matter what happens, one thing is for sure: The Aardvark’s departure is the end of an era.
Of course, the writing for that end has been on the wall for a while. According to Weaver, between the convenience of Uber and the draw of all the bars in the West 7th corridor (as well as Magnolia Avenue), as well as the demolition of his across-the-street neighbor, The Cellar, Berry Street was no longer a destination for TCU students.
“At this point, it’s not worth it to run a live music venue over here,” he said.
Hearing him say that made my heart sink a little, especially since that neighborhood has housed venues for more than 40 years. In the 2008 story “Magical Misery Tour,” Weekly associate editor Jeff Prince detailed the history of Fort Worth’s venues, including the ones that inhabited the Aardvark’s block back in the ’70s.
My experience with this area came in the early 2000s, when the Aardvark was more or less in its prime, and bands like Bowling for Soup, Flickerstick, and Blue October were on the rise, regularly hitting the Aardvark’s stage. The club was so successful, Weaver bought out the business next door and opened a second, more intimate music venue. He eventually sold The Moon Bar to a friend of mine, Chris Maunder, and I personally spent four years of my life working the Moon’s door, tending its bar, and stomping on its stage, playing bass and chugging beers.
The Aardvark and the Moon weren’t the only TCU-area spots for live music, either. The Cellar intermittently hosted bands (more so in its last few years), and about a block away on University, there was a crappy bar – first called Scooners, then Halo – where a lot of bands crammed into a spot by the front window. I spent some of the best and worst moments of my 20s and early 30s at the Aardvark, the Moon, Halo, and sometimes even the Cellar, watching bands, making friends, fighting enemies, and battering my body with Budweiser, weed, and whiskey. I fell in and out of love at those bars, and I also fell down in their parking lots. Lots of my nights on Berry were terribly awesome, and some were awesomely terrible, but all of them are just memories now.
Fuqua told me that because the building doesn’t yet have a new tenant, Christ Chapel bought the doctor’s office on Greene Avenue, directly behind the bar’s parking lot, to continue to serve the college community.
“We want to build something that’s not a church, that’s a blessing to that area,” he said. “Whether that’s a coffee shop or a place with free WiFi where students can study, we bought it with the intention to do some kind of ministry. We want to be engaged in their culture, but we don’t know what that will be yet.”
Whatever happens, the Aardvark is now one more piece of history subsumed by the march of commercial evolution. In the way that I have a dim recollection of the Dogstar (which existed where Fuzzy’s is now) from the fall of ’96 when I was a freshman at TCU, the freshmen of the fall of 2017 will possibly, vaguely remember the Aardvark. They’ll probably have memories of beers and burgers at Buffalo Bros and Dutch’s, breakfast tacos at Salsa Limón, popping into Salata for lunch between classes, and drunkenly wobbling at the Berry Street Whataburger after the West 7th Street bars shut down for the night. But I feel bad for them, because they’ll never have been to Berry Street like it was.