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A scene from the good, old metal days at Fort Worth venue The Rail Club
A scene from the good, old metal days at Fort Worth venue The Rail Club
Jason Janik

Fort Worth Venue The Rail Club To Reopen After Owners’ Legal Battles

Chris Palone wanted redemption, a second chance to live the rock ’n’ roll dream with local fans at a place where dreams were made onstage at The Rail Club. Nearly a year has passed since the old landlord chained its doors, and Brian Scheid and Palone blame their former partner Kevin Dunlap for their inability to pay rent to keep the club open. They filed a civil suit against Dunlap in Tarrant County to get back money they claimed they were owed.

Dunlap denied their allegations in October, telling the Dallas Observer, “The overhead is high, and we’ve been behind on taxes.” And rent.

The Rail Club reopened as the after-hours club No Limits in late 2018. But it was short-lived.

Now Palone plans to reopen The Rail Club as the music venue The Rail Club Live! and he’s kicking off a four-day music festival, July 18-21, to celebrate its reopening.

“Ever since I walked out of the club, I knew I needed to get it back,” he says.

Like other fans, Palone had fond memories of The Rail Club. A hazmat worker who says he earns a triple-digit annual salary, he was spending his off-time as an in-house promoter at Ridglea Theater when Dunlap gave him the opportunity to work as a promoter for The Rail Club.

Two weeks later, he bought in as a partner.

“That’s always been my lifelong dream especially at The Rail,” Palone told the Observer in September.

What wasn’t a dream was the debt that Palone says he inherited when he became part-owner of the club. He set out with his partners to fix its reputation and “dirty dive bar type feel.” He claims they were making money and never took a massive blow in profits until they realized money was missing, and filed a lawsuit against Dunlap.

Palone vented his frustrations on Facebook and told fans what he believed he’d uncovered:

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“This is the saddest post I have ever written,” he wrote. “As of today, The Rail Club is out of business. … Last week, I got lucky and discovered all of the missing money that was critical to our operations (i.e. pay rent) and took that info to the authorities as well as our lawyer. I was just too late. To put it simple, our partner Kevin Dunlap embezzled 10s of thousands of dollars from the rail club. … Mr. Kevin Dunlap, if you are reading this, then I want you to know that your day is coming. May you live forever knowing that you destroyed the lives and dreams of so many.”

Dunlap denied these allegations.

They were two months behind on rent when the landlord chained the door.

“Sorry at this moment in my life, I don’t give a fuck,” Palone wrote on Facebook. “I’m laying in the parking lot of the club I used to own until this son of a bitch robbed me of everything I worked the last year for. #sorrynotsorryforexpsingafraudandsomeone thatcost25peopletheirjobs. If I ever see him again I will kill him.”

Palone spent the last year homeless. When The Rail Club closed in September, he gave up his $1,500 lease on an apartment near a golf course to fight the lawsuit against Dunlap. It wasn’t easy couch surfing, sleeping in his office and spending the holidays without a home.

“I was the richest homeless guy,” he says.

He was also dealing with some blowback from their final night at The Rail Club when unidentified individuals tagged the red, white and blue The Rail Club mural with white spray paint. “Fuck Kevin Dunlap!” appeared in bold lettering in the photo that was later shared on social media.

But it didn’t become a rallying cry for local music fans. Instead, they became a crazed mob and vomited promises of death and pain like the heavy metal singers who once appeared onstage at The Rail Club.

The Rail Club was more than a heavy metal venue on the west side of Fort Worth. It was a home for the local metal community. Fans had been taking a ride on The Rail and making memories with their rock gods for nearly a decade. Drowning Pool, Hank Williams III, even Phil Anselmo have graced its stage. Ride for Dime honored local guitar legend Dimebag Darrell there for several years. Ministry’s Mike Scaccia lost his life slinging his guitar onstage at Warbeast vocalist Bruce Corbitt’s 50th birthday bash in 2014. His name was engraved on a nameplate centerstage.

Corbitt renewed his wedding vows with his wife Jeanne onstage in April 2018. He planned to return to the stage with his band in what would have been a miraculous appearance shortly before the club closed, but he succumbed to his battle with esophageal cancer in late January.

Seeing The Rail Club’s mural defaced was a punch in the gut to these memories. And fans weren’t happy.

Palone wasn’t either. He created a #SaveTheRailClub GoFundMe page and shared its link on Facebook. “I will not roll over and die!!!” he wrote. “If this is what it takes then so fucking be!!! If you guys help us raise this money, I swear to god Brian and I will rebuild The Rail Club and make it bigger and better.”

A few weeks ago, Palone was thinking about The Rail Club. He had made a promise to himself to bring it back. The building was sitting empty, and his attorney had been trying to get hold of the landlord in Austin but wasn’t having any luck.

Then Palone heard through the online grapevine that the strip club Corsets Cabaret in Fort Worth was somehow tied to the property. He wasn’t sure how they felt about The Rail Club and its metal crowd. He reached out and signed a five-year lease. Like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, he knew that if he could just get the keys in hand, people would come from miles around to support the club and the local acts who often appeared on its stage.

Shortly after he received the keys, Palone posted a Facebook Live video to announce the return of The Rail Club. “Sept. 14, 2018, I watched my dream died and crumbled down to the ground,” he told fans. “I made a promise to everyone that we would get it back some day. And that day is finally here.”

Fans’ response was positive and was showcased in memes and Facebook posts of support. “Best news in a long time,” wrote one. “So happy y’all are back up and ready to rock!!!” wrote another.

Musicians were also quick to inquire about playing the club. “Cerebral Desecration salutes you and would love a chance to play The Rail Club,” wrote Kobey Lange of Cerebral Desecration. “We never got the chance to before it closed so hopefully we can book something that way and slay that motherfucker!”

Other bands agreed.

Palone plans to open The Rail Club Live! officially in August. He is just waiting on the liquor license to arrive. He hired Carcass John, the original artist of The Rail Club mural, to paint a new one. He also claims to have met with O’Keefe, who he says gave him his blessings to reopen the club.

His lawsuit against Dunlap is still making its way through the courts. Even if he wins, he doubts he’ll see any money. “He isn’t coming back,” Palone says as if that is all that matters. “I just wanted people to know what he did.”

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