A Houston gay nightlife institution is getting a much-needed, and much-anticipated makeover. JR's Bar & Grill has been a fixture in Montrose for more than 30 years, drawing multiple generations of gay men and women to its laid-back, come-as-you-are interior and patio. Other bars, some longstanding hangouts themselves, have come and gone through the years. But Charles Armstrong Investments' big investment in its flagship, suggesting this is one institution that's here to stay.
We spoke with Jose Apodaca, director of operations for Charles Armstrong Investments, about the changes.
mygayhouston.com: When did JRs open?
Jose Apodaca: JR's Bar & Grill used to be two separate locations that were detached. JR's Bar & Grill at 808 Pacific Street opened in the fall of 1982.
When did Charles Armstrong acquire the bar?
The original owner was Frank H. Caven. Charles purchased the three clubs -- JR's Bar & Grill, Montrose Mining Company and Heaven (now South Beach) -- from Frank Caven on July 1, 1986.
When was the last time JR's underwent a significant renovation?
In 1988, Charles acquired the business next to JR's Bar & Grill at 804 Pacific Street. It was called Santa Fe Trading Company. Previously, the Santa Fe Trading Company was two different failed restaurant concepts, Mother Lode and then Cutters. Santa Fe Trading opened in May 1989. It quickly weathered on the vine, so Charles chose to connect 804 Pacific Street (Santa Fe Trading) and 808 Pacific Street (JR's Bar & Grill) with brick and glass connecting walkways. The rest is history. The business doubled immediately and JR's remained the No. 1 LGBTQ bar in Houston for the next 20 years.
What prompted the move to renovate now?
JR's Bar & Grill was stepped over in 2004 with the acquisition of Meteor from two attorneys. Meteor desperately needed immediate attention when the upgrades to the entire club and the tropical patio started.
With the oppressive heat and humidity that we endure every summer, it seemed very natural to build a comfortable, casual and beautiful New Orleans-style courtyard and patio for everyone to enjoy for the next 25 years.
Outline the changes, both to the patio and to the interior, if you can.
The interior bar (formally Santa Fe side) the New Orleans-style courtyard and patio have new actual onyx lighting fixtures that were quarried in Mexico. There are simply too many new design details to go over. The custom concrete on the patio, the old Chicago brick work, the custom designed wrought iron, the custom cabanas, the magnificent male Medjool Date Palm trees imported from Arizona, the courtyard fountain and many others that just need to be seen in person.
How much is being spent on the redo approximately?
In excess of $1 million will have been spent when all is completed.
This comes on the heels of a patio redo at South Beach. How has that changed things at that venue?
The South Beach patio was way overdue. It's fabulous now. The millennials love the Miami Beach feel outdoors.
What's next for the company? Planning any other changes to Meteor/Mining Co.?
Stay tuned! There will still be another year of construction at 808 Pacific Street.