Denton's Rubber Gloves is undergoing a badly needed facelift. To hear owner Josh Baish tell it, it's actually more like reconstructive surgery following blunt trauma for the 19-year-old venue, one of Denton's oldest.
"Rubber Gloves is going through something of a rebirth at the moment," Baish says. "We're not changing anything material about what Rubber Gloves is; we're just cleaning ourself up and putting our best foot forward." The plans are ambitious, including $25,000 in repairs to the roof, overhauling the electricity and HVAC, adding a kitchen and reopening the outdoor stage, which has gone unused since 2000.
Gloves was once, during Deep Ellum's most recent dark period, an ideal North Texas stop for touring indie bands, which now tend to pass over the venue (and Denton in general) in favor of spots in Big D. At the same time, the market for music in Little D has in recent years been co-opted and coddled by the same city officials who once gave grief to early adopters like Baish and Dan Mojica, owner of Dan's Silverleaf.
But changing times aren't what has eaten away at Baish's profits. The profits were never there to begin with. Due to a change of circumstances in his personal life, these big moves are now necessary. It's why he's quick to tell his single friends, "Never get married." His divorce has not been an especially amicable one.
"I can be broke as a bachelor," Baish says. "I can't be broke with a family."
Baish's marriage ended around last Christmas as his twin girls approached their second birthday. The year prior, tentative plans to move his budding family abroad gave Baish his first notions of unloading the property he says he bought for "just a little over $100,000" 18 years ago. The Denton Central Appraisal District listed the 2001 value of the property at 411 E. Sycamore at $156,801. With the revitalization of the Square, the surrounding development in the area and the Denton County Transportation Authority rail stop planted right in his property's backyard, the Rubber Gloves property was in 2015 valued at over $350,000 according to Denton Central Appraisal District numbers.
But if he continued with the plans to sell and move abroad after being served divorce papers, it would mean separation from his daughters. So those plans were trashed, and Baish hatched new plans for Gloves' rebirth, with the ultimate aim of turning what has been a labor of love into a self-sustaining and profitable business in Denton's expanded music scene.
To Baish and the bands he hopes to lure back to the venue, whose indoor capacity is 250, the reopening of the outdoor stage is the most important part of his plan. "It's dependent on what the city says when it comes time to establish a real maximum occupancy, but if it doesn't make us the biggest outdoor venue in Denton when that goes down, we'll be right there near the top. When we looked into this years ago we were quoted somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,300 occupancy."
Then there is the matter of a timetable for execution. Baish's best guess is that the outdoor stage could open back up sometime in 2016, and that he might be able to tackle the installation of a kitchen at the same time he wrestles with the City of Denton over parking and all the other issues related to getting back the outdoor stage area. Located at the west end of the property, the stage is now gated and graffitied and used more as a crash pen for vagrants than for anything related to music. Baish envisions one corner of bleacher seating, another portion of the stage area to be covered and a small bar outside in the middle of it all. He also has designs for an efficiency-style sleep shack apartment unit on the premises, so out of town bands won't have to put themselves up in a hotel room when they play Rubber Gloves.
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Without the capacity the outside stage would offer, Gloves has been relegated to a stepping-stone for bands just starting out, à la Midlake and Parquet Courts, who are coming back for a show at their old rehearsal space on November 5.
"We've always struggled with bands and promoters who've come through here. There's been this mentality that Rubber Gloves is easily outgrown," Baish says. "It's like, 'Thanks for your time, but we've got it from here.'"
The addition of a kitchen, which would also mean expanded hours, may scare some of the club's devotees, but Baish says having daytime singer-songwriter sets and a lunch menu won't fundamentally water down Gloves' grimy essence. "We're always going to be Rubber Gloves. The people who work here are musicians. We're [musicians] through and through. There's no bullshit about us, but it's time to make some money. I have to make this place work."