Closing Time For Jack's Back Yard in Oak Cliff

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One of the better bars in Dallas to feature live music came to a sudden close last night. 

Well-located in Oak Cliff, just between the Oak Lawn and Kessler Park neighborhoods, Jack's Back Yard, a re-purposed complex of buildings that formerly housed an auto repair center on West Commerce, Jack's had a casual indoor/outdoor appeal very much like another favorite Dallas bar, Lee Harvey's.

But, where Lee Harvey's revels in being a dive bar, Jack's founders created a far -- perhaps too far -- more upscale joint with their spot. Live music was staged virtually nightly either indoors in the large and comfortable bar space or out in the "back yard" on a stage surrounded by stacked shipping containers.

The vision of owners Kathy Jack and Susie Buck was to create an environment welcoming to all -- young, old, straight and gay. And, to some extent, they succeeded. With Jack's history of managing Sue Ellen's, the venue perhaps inevitably established a reputation as a lesbian bar, with a clientele to match.

As word spread that Sunday would be last call, hundreds from this community came out to mourn the end and celebrate what had been. 

An impromptu house band led by staff member Kathy Corbin provided music non-stop throughout the afternoon and well into the night. Playing a mix of rock and both classic and contemporary country, the band belted out sing-along anthems like "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and  Adele's "Rolling In the Deep," with stops along with way for Loretta Lynn and a soulful version of "Summertime."

As a memento for the owners to remember the day, a chair was passed through the crowd for signing.

The story behind the sudden closing will perhaps become clearer in the coming weeks. Indeed, it was so sudden that co-owner Susie Buck, who spends the summer on Nantucket as the personal chef to Dallas's Horchow family, couldn't even make it back in time to be on hand. 

It's obvious that the investment required in creating Jack's Backyard, with its scale and amenities, was considerable, and paying down those startup costs would be a considerable monthly nut. The reputation as being a lesbian bar cut somewhat into the demographic needed to make the numbers work. But Jack says her team is committed to learning from this experience and returning with a new venue that makes the numbers work.

Ultimately, while the day was a sad one for the shell-shocked staff and regulars, it was also a celebration for what was a very cool place. That was a crack band that came together to support a rotating cast of guest singers and guitarists. For having played relatively little together as a band, the rhythm section especially did an outstanding job, playing for over six hours.

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