Deep Ellum is most definitely on the upswing. A ghost town a half-decade ago, the neighborhood has seen the return of venues like Club Dada, Trees and The Bomb Factory alongside the emergence of new ones like Three Links and Twilite Lounge. And in the coming months, Deep Ellum will experience a whole new boom in bars and restaurants, too. But not everyone is thriving, as word comes this week that Elm Street's The Boiler Room is set to close before the end of the month.
The bar, which was resurrected by a group of investors including Drowning Pool bassist Stevie Benton in 2011, is set to celebrate its four-year anniversary this Friday and Saturday with live music from Charlie Bowtie, the Hey Heys and the David Florentino Band, to name a few. But it will be a bittersweet celebration as the following Friday, August 23, will feature The Boiler Room's grand farewell and customer appreciation event.
To add insult to injury, co-owner and operating manager Tony Smith explains that the news was leaked on Facebook before the bar's management was ready to make the announcement. Once an acquaintance spilled the beans on Tuesday, Smith's phone blew up with calls and texts demanding to know the fate of The Boiler Room, forcing Smith to re-activate his personal Facebook account in order to address the concerns. "While these rumors are true, we are not closing just yet, and not this weekend," Smith announced in a post. "From here forward if you don't see it posted on The Boiler Room home page it is not accurate or coming from us here at Boiler."
The Boiler Room snagged the Dallas Observer's Best of Dallas "Best Rock Bar" the year that it opened, establishing itself as one of the best venues in Deep Ellum for new musicians trying to get their feet in the door. But those accolades, along with a sound system that Smith describes as being "probably better than anybody else's, except maybe Trees and The Bomb Factory," weren't enough to draw large enough crowds to sustain it. Smith points to the ongoing road work along Elm Street and stiff talent-buying competition as primary contributors to the demise of The Boiler Room.
"Nobody got hurt nearly as bad as we did. The city chose to use our corner as their staging area for the whole time that they were working on the street," Smith explains. "There would be weeks at a time when they would not do anything. I never saw workers out here. In the meantime, people couldn't get across the street to us and at one point they [the City of Dallas] had both of our doors blocked off. It definitely took a toll on us more than others."
Smith also thinks that the simplicity of the "Facebook invite" has also led to a chronic under-promotion of the bar's live shows. "I think the dynamic of live music for small venues like this has changed, even in the time that we've been here," Smith suggests. "I always tell people, no matter what you do, do it well and work your craft and you know what it takes — but don't be surprised when you only bring seven people out and all you did was make one Facebook post."
The Boiler Room's closure isn't supposed to be permanent, however. Smith and his fellow owners have partnered with several "well-established" mystery partners to "change formats" and totally revamp the building, rename the space and create something that is altogether not The Boiler Room. Smith describes the new venture as "lounge-y and sexy."
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"Some of the stuff is just really outlandish, but it's really cool," he says. "Conceptually, it's going to be a completely different identity when you walk in here. The stage will no longer be there; we're going to be pushing it back to where it originally was." That revamp will include food, such as "gourmet flat bread that takes two minutes to cook." "There's a new convection oven and it's all the rage in California and the East Coast," Smith says. "Instead of waiting 45 minutes for your pizza, it'll be ready in two minutes."
Beyond that, Smith is keeping details close to his chest, refusing to divulge the new venture's name, the names of his new business partners or the exact concept behind the planned relaunch. "We know what we're doing and we're going to hold that close at this time," he says. "It's going to be some stuff that Dallas hasn't seen before, definitely very forward-thinking and just some innovative stuff that's just cool and will have people ooh-ing and ahh-ing."
Smith says that he and his partners are proud of what they did with The Boiler Room and are thankful for those who've helped support the bar along the way, but they are all very excited about the upcoming changes. "Every so often you've got to change and reinvent yourself and that's where we're at," he says.