Alex Johnson is used to having the magic touch. A business owner in his early 20s, he'd enjoyed enough success in the real estate world to all but retire barely 10 years later. Still only 33, Johnson is out looking for a new challenge — which is why he's opening PRYME, a new concert venue off Technology Blvd. in Dallas.
“I was semi-retired,” Johnson says. “I was only working four hours a day. Then I started doing this.” PRYME enjoyed a soft opening last Sunday with an appearance by Washington, D.C. rapper Wale. “Once we get it open I can scale back. I can focus on what I got to focus on,” Johnson says.
Originally from Kaufman, Johnson took an early interest in real estate and owned four properties by the time he was 21. “I had a talent for it,” he says. He moved to Las Vegas, where he found much success in real estate, after which he says he “came back to Dallas making a quarter million dollars a month.” Johnson pulled out of the housing market right before the 2008 crash, at which point he moved into logistics. “I helped folks on how to run a business, how to get a line of credit, so you can get approved,” he says.
PRYME marks Johnson's first venture as a club owner. He's invested in them before, but wanted to take on one all his own this year. Located in Northwest Dallas, it's in an area that isn't very heavily populated with other clubs or music venues. But it won't be without competition, being just down the road from Gas Monkey Bar & Grill and its sister venue, Gas Monkey Live!, which have had several years to get established and deep pockets to attract bands.
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With a capacity of 1,700, PRYME falls right between the size of the two Gas Monkey venues, but Johnson says he's hoping to take cues from his neighbors. PRYME has been modeled as an entertainment hub, with high-end bar food featuring wings, grilled chicken platters and finger foods. “I believe our bar food will be in the top 10 or the top five in Dallas,” he boasts. “I have traveled to a lot of places and our food here is great.”
PRYME will also have no fewer than 75 TV’s for sports viewing ("Of which we’re still adding to,” he clarifies), and a state-of-the-art performance stage. Johnson dubs it “The Drake Stage,” after the custom-built stage Drake performed on for his Saturday Night Live performance this year. “The stage he performed on had lights that went up and down the sides; ours has that too,” he says. “Except we also have a Jerry Jones-sized TV above it as well. It’s around 70 feet tall.”
“I want the vibe to be like House of Blues, where it’s more of a performance venue than a club, as well as a sports bar and grill. In the daytime people can get drinks, relax and watch a game on Sunday,” he says. Johnson adds that he has 25 servers on staff, plus bartenders. “The vibe will be high end. The staff’s clothes will not be skimpy, this is a classy environment, and diverse.”
When Johnson was conceptualizing the look and feel of the venue, he wanted to bring in
someone who had a history within the Dallas music scene, with connections across genres to help cater to different audiences. A friend suggested Cool Beings PR Firm founder, Jesse Porter, who founded the hip-hop open mic night at the former Club Arnetic in Deep Ellum. (Full disclosure: This author previously worked with Porter in another organization, the LBJ Experience.)
“I felt he needed someone to give the venue a new feel, a new aura. That’s exactly what I do,” Porter says. “He wanted to relate it to people of a diverse background. I’m international as well, so I bring that
insight. Alex knows I’m a huge advocate for my city.”
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Porter provided the staffing for the entire club, as well as booking Wale and DJ Duffy, who performed an afternoon set on Sunday before the soft opening event. “Wale’s DJ and engineer, DJ Money, is a very good friend of mine. He’s one of the biggest DJs in Washington, D.C.,” says Porter. “I did a whole tour in 2011 with Wale’s protege, Phil Adé, who has a project coming out. The relationship has been strengthened throughout the years and now it’s making business sense.”
The official opening for PRYME will be Oct. 6, with Porter planning on even bigger names coming through Prime. Johnson understands the long game as well.
“We're really trying to focus on an organic crowd, without having to produce acts all the time,” Johnson says. He says that means not just booking national as well as local acts, but also hosting non-music events, such as movie screenings. “When you come into PRYME you will see diversity. You’ll be like, ‘Okay, this fits the mood for anybody.’”
PRYME is located at 10333 Technology Blvd. E., 972-925-0049, prymedallas.com