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Lower Greenville isn't exactly the classiest stretch of road in the city. All those skanky neon signs and dark alleyways, the clubs that reek of back-room drug deals. There are a few bright spots, like the Cavern, with its chatty bartenders and cozy upstairs lounge, but Taco Cabana probably calls more people to Lower Greenville than live music. That's made Poor David's Pub a weird fit for the area. A folksy singer-songwriter joint that has catered to a quieter, graying crowd for more than two decades, Poor David's Pub is a fixture that always seemed a bit of an anomaly, like a veteran poker player who never quite found his groove. So it's not surprising that Poor David's Pub is moving.
"First of all, my lease expired," explains owner David Card, a charismatic and talkative older man who has steered the club for some 26 years. "And they didn't want me to renew without charging me megabucks. Secondly, it's an opportunity to take Poor David's to the next level--better parking, better neighborhood, better everything." Card, a longtime renter, finally got his piece of the pie at 1313 S. Lamar St., next door to Gilley's Dallas and near South Side on Lamar, developer Jack Matthews' effort to patronize the careers of local artists by subsidizing rent.
It's no secret that Card hadn't had an easy go of things in his old neighborhood. Last November, a musician was shot in the neck after playing a gig at Poor David's. Soon after, the surrounding locales were plagued by a serial mugger. Mayor Laura Miller, in a don't-be-scared PR move, ate dinner on Lower Greenville, but the restaurant she chose--a cheesy tropical-themed place called Coconuts--didn't say much for the quality or sophistication of the area.
As he looks toward the venue's next phase, Card hopes a genuine entertainment district might flourish in this South Dallas neighborhood. "There's a group of people down there who have similar interests--they want wholesome, naturally developed, artsy kinds of things." Starbucks was turned down for development. So was Hooters. "It's got a long-term plan instead of a short-term plan. Lower Greenville could have been the next entertainment area if they'd had a long-range view. Instead, they were all about 'Let's make money, money, money.' No, let's make a city."
One afternoon a few weeks ago, Card drove me out to his new location. On the way, he toured me around his gentrifying neighborhood. Over here, a sleek coffee shop stood among the derelict buildings. Over there, a bright, family-run Tex-Mex restaurant, vivid with primary colors and Mexican tile. And that? A cool dive bar, Lee Harvey's, that plays music and caters to the artists in the area.
When we arrive at the venue site, it's littered with sawdust and floor plans, still weeks away from completion. Not much bigger than the old spot but full of possibility. Card tours me around excitedly, showing me the raised stage, the giant windows that look out on the city, the roomy dressing room he has decided to name after Guy Clark.
"See, Guy Clark got tired of playing small clubs, and at Poor David's, there was no dressing room, no place he could relax and get away from people," Card explains. Eventually, Clark--one of the quintessential Texas singer-songwriters--stopped playing the place. "I said, 'Guy, come back and open my new place, and I'll name my dressing room after you.'" Card laughs. "He jumped all over it."
That show will be August 18, when the new doors open. In the meantime, though, there is the matter of shuttering the old, familiar spot. That comes on Sunday, with a 12-hour blowout from noon to midnight. "The idea is to let anyone play who's relevant to Poor David's," Card explains. "Anyone who wants to put their butts in the duct-tape chair or play on the stage one last time." Performers include locals Max Stalling, Kristy Kruger and Jayson Bales. Susan Gibson, who wrote the Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces," will finish with a 30-minute set. Her last song? "Tonight, We're Gonna Close This Place Down."