Several new bars and lounges opening around Houston are looking to attract LGBT customers with unique experiences.
Venus, a mostly lesbian-oriented concept, opened last month in Midtown. The roughly 5,000-square-foot, dual-level lounge is situated near the corner of Tuam and Fannin, just one block off the MetroRail. With multiple bar tops and a posh interior with semi-secluded VIP seating areas, Venus hopes to attract a diverse crowd with its "open to all" attitude (guys will feel at home here too).
Nightly drink specials and weekly programming ranging from drag shows to live music are helping draw a steady stream of partiers to Venus.
Future plans also call for a rooftop bar, which will offer spectacular views of the Downtown skyline.
"I think our grand opening really showed what we're going to be," says Pogge, the booking and promotions manager at Venus. "You saw a lot of lesbians and a lot of gay guys but also surprisingly a lot of people from the straight community who are excited about this place. They like the music and the drink specials and we want to keep them coming back."
Pogge says the vibe will be different each night with a house DJ on Fridays and Saturdays and guest DJs on other nights plus different types of specials and promotions. "We are keeping things moderately priced because we want everyone to be able to come and not feel like it's a pretentious place at all."
Another concept set to open in August has a lot of people buzzing--especially those longing for the return of a gay country bar to Houston. The owners of the new Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon hope to fill the void left by the closure of the Brazos River Bottom Saloon in Midtown earlier this year.
"When the BRB closed down, everyone was without a place to go and all of our friends and BRB family were without a place to meet and have fun together," says Jim Moore, a partner in Neon Boots. "There was definitely a void in our lives. Soon there was a Facebook page that was called Orphans of the BRB."
While it became clear that the former patrons of the BRB needed a new hangout, it was up to a group of key individuals to find an opportunity. The former Esquire Ballroom, a country and western dancehall just outside the Loop where legends such as Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline once performed, was secured and work began to transform the space into a new generation hot spot. Debbie Diane, one of the partners in the venture, says the goal isn't to recreate the BRB, but rather "get our country and western dance-friends reunited back in a fitting new home."
That new home will be pretty big one--perhaps the largest gay bar in Texas. Neon Boots will be over 10,000 square feet with a huge dance floor and a distinctly Texas-themed décor-blue and red color scheme dominated by a large Texas flag over the stage. The stage will remain, providing a great spot for live music acts and other shows.
While the Hempstead Highway location may prove something of an obstacle (it's about 10 miles or 19 minutes from the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer, according to Google Maps), the partners insist Neon Boots will be a destination all its own. They say patrons who want a country experience are more likely to come and stay put for an evening of dancing than want to hop around from bar to bar.
"We want to offer each person an experience that they will talk about to others as well as have other cities' gay population wanting to make Houston and Neon Boots a destination for fun," says Moore.
Finally, another lesbian-oriented club opened earlier this summer just west of the Galleria. Club Fresh Café initially opened as a happy hour-into-late night concept, with a food menu and nightly drink specials. The bar with a bright color scheme and high-energy music recently changed its hours, opening at 8 pm instead of 4 pm and open Thursday through Sunday only.