It's one of the most storied addresses in Houston nightlife. The dual-level mega-club at the corner of San Jacinto and McIlhenny streets in Midtown was ahead of its time when it opened in the 1980s. Rich's brought high-tech lighting and sound as well as larger-than-life music videos to the mostly gay masses who packed its enormous dance floor every weekend. The energy lasted for more than three decades before the club shuttered in 2013 and saw management and name changes. This past spring, gay Houston began to hear rumblings of a rebirth for Rich's. Those rumors were confirmed at Bunnies on the Bayou in March by business partners Bradley Janacek and Jeff Harmon. The duo were investing in bringing the club back to life, bigger and better than before.
We chatted with Harmon to get the scoop on how it all happened, and what folks can expect when Rich's reopens in the days ahead.
A.J. Mistretta: What kind of memories does Rich’s hold for each of you?
Jeff Harmon: I moved to Houston in 1998 and at the time Rich's was really the only gay dance club. Heaven had closed. I spent many nights below the iconic mirror ball! Bradley, used to come on "college night" so he could enjoy the scenery before he was ready to make his "debut."
AJM: How did the rebirth come about? Were you guys approached about taking over the space or did you approach the property owner?
JH: Long story short....We have a great relationship with the property owner. We were approached and the rest is history.
AJM: What made you decide to take this leap?
JH: I have worked in the service industry since I was 18. I opened Halo, in Bryan/College Station in 2003 and a restaurant in 2006. This industry is what I know best. Brad, has worked in the event industry since 1999 and currently owns Bradley David Entertainment.
AJM: This is a big space. Are you splitting it up in some way and how? What will look different to patrons?
JH: Rich's is roughly 15,000 square feet. We are the largest LGBT nightclub in Houston! We are revitalizing the entire space. Some of the rooms will not be ready for our debut on Pride weekend but we should have all of the spaces ready in the very near future. Every square foot of this space will be touched. The bones of the building will remain the same for now but we are making her pretty again! Rich's will absolutely look revitalized to our patrons! All new lighting, upgraded sound equipment, furnishings, upholstery, drapery, technology etc, etc, etc.
AJM: What will make Rich’s different than the other LGBT bars and clubs currently in Houston?
JH: In reality, there are only two LGBT high energy dance club in Houston. Rich's is the only multi-level LGBT nightclub in Houston and the only one with different bars/lounges that offer patrons a different atmosphere in each. Basically, we have several options for our customers under one roof.
AJM: I hear you’re looking at doing some theme nights, can you talk about that a bit?
JH: We have talked about theme nights and plan to offer several events throughout the year...With that being said, we absolutely plan to bring in well known entertainers, DJs and celebrities to our stages. It won't be just for a special season or event, we plan to do it often. Our intention is to offer our patrons more options for their nightlife.
AJM: It’s no secret that LGBT folks don’t necessarily feel that they need to go to gay clubs as much as they once did. We’re welcome in many places, so is it risky to open a club of this size in 2016?
JH: I realize that over the years some in the LGBT community feel welcomed at "other" bars. I am completely fine going to "other" bars. However, I absolutely prefer to be in the company of my own. I don't think opening a nightclub this size is risky. Opening Halo in 2003, near one of the most conservative universities in the country, seemed more of a risk. Rich's is a gay-owned and operated nightclub but everyone is welcomed here. That's what Rich's has and will continue to be about.
AJM: What else should readers know about the new and improved Rich’s?
JH: Overall, we don't have enough time to accomplish everything on our wish list before our grand opening. Over the next few months, we plan to continue to renovate, repair and rehab the entire property. We have huge plans for the space and our customers will see the transformation happen. We have spent a great deal of money and plan to continue reinvesting into 2401 San Jacinto. Rich's is here to stay and with our patrons help, we plan to make it better than ever!
For more on the club and its upcoming events, follow Rich's on Facebook.