By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Velvet casket?: On April 1, Undeniable Records threw its first-ever birthday bash, and the burgeoning record label picked the Double Wide to host the festivities. The 2006 Dallas Observer Music Awards nominee for Best Music Venue, tucked into the outskirts of Deep Ellum, was an ideal spot; after all, Undeniable bands the Tah Dahs and the Happy Bullets, like a lot of other popular indie, country and rockabilly bands in town, played the dive religiously since it opened in June 2003.
On that crowded Saturday night, if anyone had said the place would announce its closure 10 days later, they would've been laughed out of the bar and called an April Fool.
So it was a shock to everyone--the fans and certainly the employees--that owner Jim Sibert did just that on Monday, locking the Double Wide's doors and canceling the venue's music schedule immediately. Booking agent Chelsea Callahan spoke in a near sob when she confirmed the news that afternoon: "I had no idea that we were even close to completely closing," she said before taking yet another call on the other line.
The press release about the closure, posted Monday on the Dallas Observer's blog Unfair Park, lamented a downturn in Deep Ellum traffic and said that plans to move the bar to another building farther north hadn't yet panned out, so the original building would shut down while searching for a potential new site.
"I originally opened the bar as a pilot for a chain," Sibert said Tuesday. "This one's just too small to be worth my time. I've made it as big as it can be...I was planning on moving it, adding food and expanding the concept so I could go out and raise money to open another one. But I could just never catch up. I just got fed up, said, 'We're gonna wrap it up.'"
But Sibert's dream of a new Dick's Last Resort, a white trash-themed catch-all destination for food, drinks and entertainment, became an intimate and beloved haven for local rock rather than some hokey theme dive destined for Addison. Sure, the place was full of redneck kitsch and canned beer ("Last year, we were the biggest vendor of PBR in Texas," he points out, though he offered no statistics about patrons who wore white belts), but what really made the Dee-Dub work was its love for music. The entire place was staffed with local music nuts--bartenders and door employees who had plenty to say about the bar's music calendar on a given night--and they were utterly committed to the venue. So what would happen to them?
"The reason I didn't close it down a long time ago was because of the staff," Sibert says. "I didn't want to put them out on the street. But let me give you the new twist. Since that press release went out, it's been like people rushing the stage. A bunch of people want to buy the bar... Double Wide's gonna stay. It's not going to open this week until someone hammers out a contract with me, but it looks like my staff is going to buy it. My hope that it's not gonna change is going to come to fruition, I think."
We'll wait until we see it--we remember a similar staff-purchase rumor when Sibert's last outskirts-of-Deep-Ellum bar, XPO Lounge, shut down in 2004--but phone calls around town confirmed that at least one buyer is all but lined up to take over and "license" the DW name like a franchise, which begs the question--if a handover could be pulled off this quickly, why scare everyone with a closure announcement in the first place?
"It's too bad I did it in an abrupt manner," Sibert says, "but...it got people motivated." Keep your eyes on Unfair Park for any reopening announcements.