Nothing is permanent. Your childhood TV shows, your favorite college T-shirt, leftover fast food from a night of binge drinking, none of it gets out alive. We all know that things we grow to love and depend on eventually get torn away from our lives, yet we still allow open invitations to our hearts as if this time somehow it’ll be different.
In Oak Cliff, first, developers came for 72-year-old El Fenix restaurant on Colorado. Then they came for Local Oak in its 100-year-old building. Now they are coming for Ten Bells Tavern.
Ten Bells was known for many things, but one of the most notable was its Sunday brunch. They hosted misfits, yuppies, hipsters, nerds, bros, divas and every clique in between to some of the most memorable brunch dishes this side of the Trinity River. The menu often rotated, so one week you could enjoy a classic eggs Benedict or chicken and waffles and the following week you could try an S.B.L.T. (shrimp, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes) sandwich.
The fact that Ten Bells is closing its door is not breaking news. Owners and customers of one of the most popular bars in Bishop Arts District were all aware that the real estate firm Alamo Manhattan had their mind set on changing a close-knit family community into a money-making development.
Bishop Arts will soon be vacant of the generations of folks it attracted and who breathed life into this neighborhood in exchange for a sector of people who can afford the changes. Both Deep Ellum, Uptown and West Dallas have gone through this transformation in the past, starting as a neighborhood that was solely populated by minorities who were forced to live there, then over time taken away because of the potential to make money for a few small groups.
Brunch at Ten Bells was Dallas at its brunch best.
Ten Bells Tavern was more than just a bar where you could drink a beer and grab a bite to eat; it was also a community haven. When co-owner Meri Dahlke opened this establishment in 2012, her goal was to create a safe space for all living in or near Oak Cliff to come to rewind or unwind. Over the years within the confines of Ten, friendships have been forged, those we’ve lost along the way have been memorialized, and I am pretty confident that a few relationships have been consummated there as well.
Dahlke is also proud of the work she has done with the Spay Neuter Network. She began a program at the bar in which anyone could get a cat spayed or neutered at no charge every Thursday. She also ran benefits to raise money for various animal charities that aided cats, dogs and even salamanders. She has raised more than $50,000 of charitable donations during her tenor at Ten Bells.
It’s been said that when one door closes, another opens. Ten Bell has plans to open another bar on 8th Street right behind the location it's in now. Originally, they were told they had until July 2022 to vacate the old bar, but Alamo Manhattan pulled an audible and decided to speed up the clock on redevelopment for a new shiny hollowed-out apartment complex catering to the new breed of people migrating to this part of the historical Oak Cliff.
It's sad to think that developers are erasing the genuine uniqueness that attracts people to this part of Dallas and is replacing them with things that look and feel like the rest of the city. The final day for Ten Bells Tavern will be April 24. I hope that they can capture lightning in a bottle with the new place in a new space and have a successful sequel.