Oak Street Drafthouse Turns A Piece Of Denton History Into A New Watering Hole
Drafthouse owner John Williams, by Andy Odom
It's harder than ever to decide where to grab a drink in Denton. Sure, the old Fry Street stand-bys are there in spite of a new apartment development, and you could wet your whistle at II Charlie's or the Pourhouse Sports Grill. With The Labb sports bar expanding their beer selection and the Midlake-owned Paschall Bar expanding the cocktail selection around the Square, there are more gathering spots than any time in recent memory. But in early March, the list of places grew even longer. Just east of the Square and a block north of Hickory sits the newly opened Oak Street Drafthouse.
"It was built in 1886 and it's the third oldest house in Denton," says owner and lifelong Denton resident John Williams. He's tried to piece together the history of the house as best he can, and turned up little nuggets, like how the house was purchased in 1933 for $1,500 by the Sauls family, and used to house soldiers returning from World War II. In the late '70s/early '80s, it played a role in Denton's house-show scene as Shipley Manor, and boasts that the entire ground floor collapsed during a particularly rambunctious Brave Combo performance.
Nowadays, the scene at the house is much calmer. A large beer garden fills the entire back yard, and the wrap-around, pet-friendly patio sees an almost constant flow of visitors on weekends. The house has two large, smoke-free parlors and the 40+ beers on tap are indicated by number and custom, hand-blown glass handles.
"I didn't want these big tap handles advertising beer being in the way, where I couldn't interact with customers," Williams says. "I asked an old friend, Matt Marchand with MAD Glass, if he had ever thought about doing something like this, and he said no, but he could do it. They really add something special to the bar area."
The floor is long since fixed, and music still plays a large role in the old house. There are always tunes playing over the house system, picked by the staff instead of relying on the disturbing trend of Internet jukeboxes. And that beer garden is just asking for live performances. "We're looking at having Sunday afternoon bluegrass shows or some live bands, but nothing too crazy at the moment," Williams explains. "We're still new, so I don't want to ruffle any feathers." The Drafthouse was also slated to host an unofficial 35 Denton day party on the Saturday of the fest, but it fell victim to the weather.
Right now, Williams is content on having the newest, and perhaps most unique, bar in downtown. "People tell me how glad they are that they don't have to drive to get a good selection of beers," he says. "I just want to help make the place better."
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