The tiki bar dream has been a hard one to make stick here in Dallas, and it looks like it just got that much harder. Earlier this week, Sunset Lounge, situated on Ross Avenue close to downtown, announced on its Facebook page that it will be closing its doors at the end of this month.
Had it been in another neighborhood, Sunset Lounge might have lasted. Things are happening all around its location: Condos and apartment complexes are shooting up, sidewalks are being built and garbage bag trees are being planted. But the area seems to be a future hotspot. Perhaps Sunset Lounge showed up too soon.
Sunset Lounge's owners Richard and Heather Allen had high hopes for the bar and its surrounding area. At one point in time, they were even working on opening up another business across the street in an effort to help launch a budding new district.
“We wanted to help shape the corner of Ross by creating a buzz,” says Heather. The couple has owned several businesses and this has never happened to them before. But Sunset Lounge has been losing money for a long time, eating into their personal expenses, and they simply can’t afford to continue. “It’s not making the numbers,” she says. “We can’t risk losing our home.”
Things started off well for the business. The interior of Sunset Lounge looks like a bar you would find in Beverly Hills and the reggae music they play gives it a Caribbean vibe. They have one of the best happy hours in town and one of the best bartenders. Cindy Van Zandt, Sunset Lounge’s general manager, is a veteran bartender who has been with Sunset Lounge since the beginning. Heather refers to her as “a lifesaver, the messiah of Sunset.” She moved to Dallas from New Orleans years ago, always has a smile on her face, and definitely has the gift of gab. She also makes a wicked Singapore Sling.
Van Zandt cheerfully explains that there are three types of people in her industry: The people just passing through, the ones who do it forever and hate it, and those who do it forever and love it. After working in bars for half of her life, she clearly falls in the last category. Van Zandt is also a graphic designer. In 2010 she sold an image to Lady Gaga that ruled the Internet for a time. You would be wise to follow her, wherever she goes.
Richard Allen has a background in construction and has had a hand in building countless properties in Dallas, like the ones that are home to The Rustic, Gemma Restaurant and The Dram. The Allens also own the building that is leased to Method Coffee. And it just so happens that there is nothing phony about the Caribbean vibe at Sunset Lounge. Heather Allen is actually related to Bob Marley. Her grandfather and Bob Marley’s father were brothers. She has been trying to convince Rohan Marley, Bob’s son, to test out his brand of coffee in Dallas. As you might expect, the name of his brand is Marley Coffee.
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It will be interesting to see what becomes of Sunset and its surrounding area. The Allens own the Sunset Lounge brand and the building is owned by Ken Skaggs from 3008, the “editorial boutique” next door. The building has a flashy bar, a nice patio, lovely hardwood floors and a superb sound system that Dallas rapper -topic used to utilize for weekly shows.
On Saturday June 27, Sunset Lounge will have a closing party, a celebration with the drink specials they are known for to thank all of their supporters. The last day of business will be a few days later on June 30.
Looking back, Heather says they had a great start but the area just didn’t take off soon enough. The couple has no formal plans to leave Dallas, but they are weighing the options of pursuing another venture here or relocating Sunset Lounge to the Florida Keys.