Deep Ellum's The Door, which opened in '98, is the first Dallas music venue to host many now-famous rock musicians, including Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Brand New. It has overseen decades of change and growth in the neighborhood. But now The Door is packing its bags. Owner and talent buyer Russell David Hobbs says it will move out of Deep Ellum by the end of the year because of a rent increase.
“They doubled our rent,” Hobbs says. “The building needs a lot of renovation, like new air conditioning systems, and we can’t afford to do that and pay double rent. It’s just not feasible to stay there anymore.”
The Door was Hobbs' third foray into the entertainment business. In 1984, he opened the Theatre Gallery in Deep Ellum, which was little more than a wasteland of warehouse buildings at the time. He opened his first real music venue, The Prophet Bar, shortly after.
Hobbs says the presence of corporate promoters such as AEG and Live Nation has made it harder for independent promoters like him to compete.
“I was telling everyone to come to Deep Ellum in the 1980s and no one knew where it was, and now I can’t afford to be there,” Hobbs says. “Every major national promoter is in the city now. Gas Monkey took a lot of the tours that we were doing. They just pay them twice as much to get them to come over and pay for T-shirts and hamburgers.”
Hobbs says that The Prophet Bar, which is connected to The Door, has signed a new lease and will remain at its present location. And he's optimistic about The Door's future outside of Deep Ellum.
“We liked being in Deep Ellum,” Hobbs says. “We’ve been there 20 years and I started the whole Deep Ellum scene in 1984, so I love Deep Ellum. But it’s exciting because, in a way, it will be better to get out of there.”
Hobbs hasn't signed a lease on the The Door’s new location yet. He says he's weighing two options: one in The Cedars neighborhood of Dallas and another farther away in Addison.
“For me, it’s kind of like the end of an era because I grew up going to shows [at The Door],” says Mike Ziemer, whose promotions company, Third String Productions, got its start at The Door. “I was interviewing bands enough that Russell and Joel [Fruth], who were running it, were like, ‘We’ll just guest list you for shows from now on because you’re here so much,’ and it just became a second home.”
Ziemer began booking concerts at The Door when he turned 18, and it grew into a business.
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“It was one of the first venues that ever supported [Third String Productions] and helped me launch my career,” he says. “We still do and have been doing shows with [The Door] for years, and I’m 32 years old now, and we’re doing some of their last shows. We’re heavily involved in trying to get a few cool bands last minute to come back and be a part of the final shows for them.”
Among the bands performing during The Door's final days in Deep Ellum are Florida-based rocker group Sleeping with Sirens; Fort Worth’s Oh, Sleeper; and Ohio rock band Hawthorne Heights.
Both Hobbs and Ziemer say they wanted to bring back musicians whose careers The Door helped to build.
“We’re racking our brains with what we can do to help [The Door] out and to make it a really cool ending,” Ziemer says. “There are people that haven’t gone to The Door in years and years that want to go to one final show with one of these bands.”