Dallas Music Scene Takes a Huge Blow as Lizard Lounge and The Blue Light Both Shutter

The Lizard Lounge is a Dallas institution that stood for almost 30 years until the pandemic forced it to fold. Fans give the place a hug goodbye.
The Lizard Lounge is a Dallas institution that stood for almost 30 years until the pandemic forced it to fold. Fans give the place a hug goodbye. Mike Brooks

In a shocking development caused by the economic devastation of COVID-19, two respected Deep Ellum venues located a mere half mile from each other announced they would be closing this week.

Lizard Lounge, a Dallas institution that has stood for 28 years as a mecca of electronic music and Goth/post-punk, closed abruptly last Friday, according to a Facebook post made by owner Don Nedler. To add insult toinjury, it was also announced on Monday that Lubbock-based country music venue The Blue Light would be closing its Dallas location.

Both closures were attributed to the steep cost of staying open combined with insufficient revenue. As Blue Light owner Marc Torres said in a Facebook announcement, “[We] can’t pay bills if we can’t operate. Can’t operate if we can’t book any shows. Can’t book any shows if bands can’t tour.”

Nedler echoed this in his own announcement: “The cost to maintain business during the shutdown was overwhelming.”

The Lizard Lounge and The Blue Light join a list of Dallas venues that have announced their closing following the pandemic, including the massive Deep Ellum bar Punch Bowl Social and Clover Club. Other Deep Ellum locations, like ice cream shop Chills 360 announced they'd be closing as well.

“The cost to maintain business during the shutdown was overwhelming.” – Lizard Lounge owner Don Nedler

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Nedler disclosed plans to The Dallas Morning News on reopening Lizard Lounge just in time for its 30th anniversary. Moreover, he announced on social media that “The Church” (a biweekly dance night at the Lizard Lounge with an emphasis on Goth, post-punk and industrial music) would take place at sister venue It’ll Do Club once it resumes operations. Because of the construction of an adjacent high-rise spearheaded by Uber and Westdale Asset Management (which owns the Lizard Lounge property), it is unlikely that the nightclub will reopen at its original Swiss Avenue location.

An apparent landlord-tenant impasse also transpired in the case of Blue Light. As Torres explained on social media, “[We] couldn’t get on [the] same page with [our] landlord that made sense moving forward.”

While Lizard Lounge’s run lasted an astonishing 28 years, the unforeseen closure of Blue Light’s Dallas location comes just 19 months after its grand opening. Since 1999, the venue’s flagship location in Lubbock has served as a stomping ground for now-prominent red dirt country artists such as Wade Bowen, William Clark Green, Josh Abbott and Flatland Cavalry. While the music programming of its departed Main Street location placed a similar emphasis on country, folk and Americana, artists of different genres such as pop, rock and hip-hop regularly took the stage as promoters like AEG and Margin Walker booked shows there.

The opposite progression happened for Lizard Lounge, as the scope of its curation narrowed into niches such as electronica, techno, Goth and industrial. In the years since the dance club opened its Dallas location in 1991 (it was initially a chain with locations in Houston and Austin), artists such as Moby, Portishead,Skrillex and The Prodigy have graced the stage. Before Lizard Lounge became a celebrated hotbed for dance music, it even hosted rock bands such as Yo La Tengo, Primal Scream, Barenaked Ladies and 311.

With the shuttering of both Lizard Lounge and Blue Light, Deep Ellum’s music circuit has started the new decade on some bad footing. While the 2010s embodied a period in which Deep Ellum saw a boom of new music venues, the neighborhood seems to have entered into the “bust” cycle in which venues both new and old close their doors for good.

The Church Dallas announced on Wednesday via its Facebook page that it would open the doors to fans this Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. to say their farewells and take their last photos under the venue's iconic chandelier.
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Garrett Gravley was born and grew up in Dallas. He mostly writes about music, but veers into arts and culture, local news and politics. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas and has written for the Dallas Observer since October 2018.