By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Late on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1, TABC officers and the fire marshal both descended upon Dada for "violations"—or, more specifically, the $15,000 the club had never paid in liquor taxes.
Tapia, as was becoming his habit, was nowhere to be found.
Local folk singer Nicholas Altobelli stood outside the venue, utterly confused. He'd been scheduled to perform in The Listening Room that night. He never got the chance, of course; employees finally reached Baker and Tapia, and together, the decision was made to close for the night.
A much bigger event was scheduled to take place in the main room later that evening: Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, who were on the road with Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, were performing at the Superpages.com Center that evening. As a homecoming celebration, local booking agency Method Entertainment had booked the band to perform at the club at an after-party sure to bring in big numbers. In fact, it did draw big numbers—on the opposite end of Deep Ellum at The Double Wide.
It was a major loss for Dada.
In the following days, the question persisted: Was Dada open or not? Tapia, when reached, maintained that it was. But the venue's lights were only on intermittently and without much warning.
The constant wavering led to the loss of at least one more big show from a local promoter.
John Iskander, head of Parade of Flesh booking, scored quite the coup when he landed a Bacardi-sponsored tour from lo-fi dance-punk duo Matt and Kim. He'd hoped to host the show at Dada. But because Tapia was impossible to get hold of, the date fell through, eventually moving to House of Blues.
Before long, Tapia acknowledged that the club was going to close—but, he claimed, only for two months, so he could complete his grand-scheme renovations.
Those changes never came. Not two months later, not ever. Quietly, in late July, Club Dada LLC officially went under.
Behind the scenes, in those final days, Baker tried hard to sell her share in the business. Problem was, there was nothing to sell. Baker didn't own any part of the room or anything within it. Her landlord, Westdale Asset Management, owned the room. It even owned the rights to the name Club Dada.
All Baker owned was the business entity that operated in the space and owned the liquor license and, with it, the debts owed to the TABC.
"No one would buy that," she says. "And I wouldn't sell it. We were trying to sell what we had done. And the changes we'd made."
Baker ended up simply eating her losses in exchange for getting out of the business, and she negotiated a deal with Westdale that relieved her of fulfilling the club's lease, which ran through June 2010.
Tapia, meanwhile, remained reclusive.
"I didn't care," Tapia says now. He was done. In hindsight, he admits that his hiding out was a mistake. It didn't help matters that, at this same time, Tapia's ex, the mother of his child, had accepted a job offer in Los Angeles and was taking his daughter with her; Tapia began telling friends he was moving to Los Angeles. Turns out, Tapia actually did move—he lives in Studio City, California, these days—although, because of his continuing relationship with Baker, he still returns to the region frequently.
But Tapia does admit fault. "Hold me accountable," he says.
OK, how's this for starters: What about his promise to turn Dada into "an A-plus venue"?
"I didn't do it," he says. "But I was on the verge of doing it. When I [said] that, I'd already seen the floor plan for the new Dada in my mind. If you follow my vision, had I got that club to where it needed to be, it would've stood up to Trees, to the House of Blues, to the Palladium. It would've stood up to even the Nokia Theatre, if only because of the artistic integrity of the place. It would've stood on four legs."
If he sounds a little delusional there, well, he should. Which speaks to another concern about the last regime at Club Dada: Were they doomed from the start?
"Yes," Baker admits. "It was my fault for getting Ben involved. I asked too much of him. No one can do all those jobs [booking local and national acts, running the day-to-day of the venue, managing the bar and all that that entails]. It was unfair of me to ask that of him."
But maybe it's more than that. Maybe it's Dada that's doomed.
"Is there a Dada curse?" Amanda Warr asks. "I've been asked. I don't know if there's a Dada curse as much as there's a city of Dallas curse."
The argument there is that in this environment a true-blue, artistic-minded music venue can't survive. Not in a city where live music isn't chic anymore, having long been overrun by expensive bottle-service nightclubs.
But tell that to Trees, which is enjoying big crowds on a regular basis. Or tell it to any of the other establishments opening up on Elm Street. Here are people buying into the city of Dallas' vision for Deep Ellum—or its current one, at least—and into a sense of a Deep Ellum community.