Allen Falkner is as Deep Ellum as they come, but his name is known around the world. He's known as the father of body suspension, in which people suspend themselves in the air with the aid of hooks inserted in their flesh. Falkner already owns the Fade Fast tattoo removal shop on Main Street. And now, with his recent takeover of Deep Ellum nightclub Red Light Lounge, he's about to build his own home base and event space.
"Dance clubs work really, really well on Friday and Saturday nights. They don't work really well any other night of the week, necessarily," says Falkner, who was a quiet Red Light's founding partner when it opened in 2014. "Deep Ellum is changing, it's evolving, becoming a restaurant destination. There's a lot of retail down here. Only having a club open very late at night on Fridays and Saturdays isn't necessarily the greatest business plan."
Falkner wants to expand what the club, which he'll officially relaunch as The Nines on Sept. 3, does, without changing its DNA as a dance club. Much of its existing programming, including the weekly Tuesday Night Takeover, will remain in place. Don Nedler of the Lizard Lounge, who was previously the majority owner, will also remain as a partner.
"We're still part of the Lizard Lounge family. That's not going to change," clarifies Falkner. "As it is right now, we got two of their turntables and one of their monitors in the club. It's definitely a symbiotic relationship. "DJ Virus, who runs Lizard Lounge's The Church goth party, will also continue his Wednesday night Shockwaves party at The Nines."What will change is that Falkner and his wife, Courtney Crave, will have a spot of their own to run the many events that they organize, including Falkner's Suscon and Crave's Fetish Ball.
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"A lot of the things, we do [them] at Lizard Lounge, which is a much larger-capacity venue, so you have to have large-scale events in order to be successful. Red Light is a much smaller venue; you can do 100- to 200-people events and be profitable," Falkner says. An event like Fetish Ball can require six months of planning, so the smaller capacity opens the door to more frequent programming. "It's a way to have the creative outlet and events we've been meaning to have for a while," Falkner adds.
As someone who lives within walking distance of the club and is dedicated to Deep Ellum's countercultural pedigree, those events are an important part of the niche he wants The Nine to fill. "I'm trying to make the bar more of the weird, eclectic component of Deep Ellum that it should be," he says. "With all the construction going on down here, I'm trying to make it more of a fit, if that makes sense."
Other changes will be subtler, and many of them have already begun taking place, including adding new red velvet couches, installing new lighting and moving the location of the DJ booth, as per the recommendation of the DJs who play the club. The entrance will be moved from Main Street to face Malcolm X Boulevard. "I've had people come in recently and say, 'Wow, the inside looks nice now,'" Falkner says.
The Nines will also have a kitchen, to be operated by former Trio chef Margaret Alvis. "There aren't going to be any utensils involved. It's mostly finger foods, but higher-end finger foods," Falkner says. The menu will include items like meat and cheese boards, flat breads and sandwiches. "The whole idea is not to be a restaurant with music but a bar that serves food. I want people, if they get the munchies, to be able to eat."
Falkner is careful to emphasize, however, that Red Light's transition to The Nines is an "evolution," and not a major overhaul. "We've got two years of momentum. The last thing we want to do is pull the brakes and say this is a whole new venue, because it's not," he says. "At the same time, the point is to encourage people to realize things have changed."