It's been a long time coming, but the air is well and truly buzzing once again along Hickory Street in Denton. Harvest House opened up shop Thursday in preparation for 35 Denton, and nearly every day since they've been packed to the brim with patrons thirsty for libations and live music. Suffice it to say, it may be just the venue that Denton has been waiting for.
Harvest House's sprawling outdoor beer garden could easily be one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- venues in Denton, and the owners plan to use the massive stage to attract national acts. The project has been in the works for nearly 11 years, and for owner Matthew Arnold this weekend has lived up to the hours he and his team have put in.
The space possesses a warm, welcoming appeal with a wooden pallet fence, corrugated tin roof for the pavilion and plentiful benches in front of the raw wooden stage. There's a sense the owners want to bridge the age gap to widen the venue's customer appeal; it's charmingly rustic for the older crowd and aesthetically sharp to satisfy young Dentonites.
In its initial form, Harvest House was more an event than a locale, and was held at Arnold's house in 2004. "It started with a banjo, a bottle of bourbon, a bale of hay and a big group of friends," he says, describing its idyllic origins. This simple beginning had one band playing a few songs to an audience of 15 friends carving pumpkins in a yard.
Each year, the event multiplied in size and eventually exceeded 1,000 attendees and attracted a few noise complaints. To placate the exponentially larger crowd, that bottle of bourbon was ratcheted up to 14 tapped kegs lining his back porch. By this point, Arnold realized it was time to begin the hunt for his dream bar and give Harvest House a permanent home.
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He spent about four years sifting through properties that were mostly hit or miss, either not capturing the aesthetic he wanted or lacking the necessary infrastructure for the scale of project he intended to pursue. Many spaces he considered simply couldn't carry the chosen name of Harvest House. "I couldn't attribute that name to just any place," he says. "Those places weren't quite right."
That's when he came across the 13,000-square-foot space off Hickory and Bell Avenue and knew with complete certainty that this was going to be the home of Harvest House. But getting from an empty plot to music hotspot would require a sizable crew, serious monetary investment and, hardest of all, lots of time.
After almost three years of construction, staff and management just barely finished work the day before 35 Denton. In fact, they only finished fully stocking the liquor cabinet 30 minutes before the doors opened, and they nearly didn't get the permits filed in time for the big day. But the frantic finishing touches all came together just in time for Harvest House's weekend premiere -- and it worked, because everywhere you went on Sunday you heard the words "Harvest House" eagerly escape the mouths of Dentonites.
"It was a huge success," Arnold excitedly declares. "I couldn't be happier. I might be the captain of the ship, but it has absolutely been a success because of the entire team. We've worked together, we've bled together."
After just four days of live operation, Harvest House has already booked two weddings and scheduled live brewing demonstrations with Denton's Audacity brewing company. Further down the road, Arnold plans to have a permanent food truck stationed in the yard and to offer health-conscious smoothies and juices at the bar. And just in case you were about to consider going anywhere else for anything, ever, they're planning to install an espresso machine to offer hot coffee alongside the cold brew coffee and 54 other beers on tap.
On the entertainment circuit, Arnold plans to have live music booked Wednesday through Sunday, including UNT jazz bands and touring acts on Fridays and Saturdays. The stage isn't an afterthought, but instead a centerpiece that ties the entire beer garden together. All music will be free except for certain Saturdays when national acts are featured, and a cover might be charged to support the musicians.
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Yesterday morning, the first time he's had room to breathe, Arnold proudly mentions he finally got some well-earned rest after living on three to four hours of sleep for the past six weeks. This Thursday he turns 30, and for his birthday all he wants is a solid two-hour nap in the middle of the day. "I haven't had a day off or a nap yet in 2015, so I'm going to take one as a gift to myself," he says with a satisfied sigh of relief.
But for now, Arnold confesses that he's got a line of people waiting for his approval on the remaining details for Harvest House. "I've gotta get back to it," he says. "We're all doing this together."
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