Seven weeks ago, Texas’ highest-ranking zealot, The Right Reverend Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, was forced into major take-backsies on his premature reopening of the pandemic-beleaguered Texas economy. He issued an executive order that again mandated the shuttering of any and all places where fun might be had. Officially, according to the order, such places are loosely defined as “all bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages.”
Thankfully, due to that heroic proclamation, the once seething coronavirus hotspot that was our beloved Lone Star State in early summer has since seen a complete reversal, and the pesky virus has left our barbed wire-protected borders for good. (“And stay out!” shouts our very manly mustachioed Sheriff Gov. Abbott, brushing his hands against each other with a steely Clint Eastwood leer as his shiny silver spurs gleam in the sunlight.)
Of course, we know the above is a fiction of depressing magnitude. The virus is still running rampant here in the land of roadside cattle and $200 designer bejeweled-butt jeans. As long as it does so, establishments that fall under Abbott’s seemingly arbitrary guidelines sit dark and empty. A subcategory of such locations suffering from the edict which is very dear to me is music venues. From fine spirits to horsepiss beer, the hooch has always been the means by which musicians have a stage on which to do what they do, and since Abbott put a dam on Whiskey River, June 26 has become The Day the Music Died.
The mandate did, however, leave room for particularly indefatigable club owners to spot a way they just might be able to keep their saloon doors swinging. By simply offering food service to shift the proportion of revenue generated by booze to below Abbott’s less-than-half threshold, venues, via the magic of bureaucratic loopholes, can now be — voila! — reinvented as restaurants.
Some joints, like Magnolia Motor Lounge, have been marrying the seemingly disparate concepts of live music and high-end pub fare for years. Now, out of pure necessity, other veteran stage houses will likely follow suit. Already, the legendary Billy Bob’s Texas officially reopened last week with the brand-new Honky Tonk Kitchen. The restaurant is open regular daytime hours throughout the week, and the dance hall will again have actual late night live shows beginning this weekend. Look for other venues to try to duplicate the model.
One such could be West 7th-corridor staple Lola’s Trailer Park. The venue has already been offering mouthwatering Dayne’s Craft BBQ from Lola’s spacious backyard for a year now. Despite the club proper being closed, along with the adjacent Lola’s Saloon, Dayne’s has been maintaining its operation there. Recent social media posts from Lola’s have been hinting at a potential reboot for the spot as soon as they can “reopen safely and legally,” per an Instagram post that teased “exciting new developments right around the corner!” With the existing relationship with Dayne’s, it would be an easy transition to run their kitchen full-time from the Trailer Park, potentially allowing Lola’s to welcome their faithful back inside.
Obviously, any way clubs can bring in a buck in these times is a good thing. If putting on a chef’s apron is a good way to ensure there are stages left when Russia’s secret untested vaccine saves us all and we can finally leave our homes again, then so be it.
I sincerely hope that serving food can help these venues survive. I just worry that the live music will be lost in the mix. There’s nothing to indicate it will (thanks, MML), but my good-ol’-days goggles still have me fondly remembering super-loud holes in the wall where the only food was the candy bar you snuck in your back pocket. — Patrick Higgins
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