Just before Valentine's Day, many Texans were giddier about the prospects of snow than flowers or chocolates. We checked weather apps hourly for reassurances that we would, in fact, this time see some serious powder. Oh, the bliss of our naivety.
As the snow rolled in, the power grid failed, pipes froze then subsequently busted. Texans have since collectively received an education on what “deregulation” means, what a boil notice entails and whether gas or wood fireplaces produce more heat (it's complicated).
Community groups are organizing to help each other. Phones ding with texts, “Y’all good?” Social media posts offer warmth, food or whatever else a neighbor may need.
But, through the snow and busted pipes, a few unsuspecting spots in the city have kept the kitchen (and bar) lights on. Not just for food, warmth or a charging station, but to combat the isolation and anxiousness some are feeling.
The most humble of dive bars, Lakewood Landing, has been serving honest drinks and amazing corn dogs for decades. When their landline started ringing almost nonstop this past Wednesday, they posted a simple message on Facebook, “We are open. Stop calling.”
“Obviously with the weather, there is a concern for the safety of our customers,” says Jordan Lowery at the Landing, who is maintaining the pandemic-mandated capacity. “But a large portion of our regulars walk here. The power outages kept people at the bar, as well. A customer would get a text or call saying their power was back on. They would payout and leave, but return within the hour saying it was off again.”
And even though they haven’t been able to receive their regular food deliveries from suppliers, they aren’t too worried. “You can only patch-up so much of your menu with a Sam’s run, but we have a delivery coming Thursday, so we should be back to normal soon.”
Fortunately, their liquor supplier is just across the street.
Cosmo's, just down the road from the Landing, feels a sense of obligation to their Lakewood community, who have supported them through the pandemic.
"We've kept the kitchen opened until 2 a.m. each night to ensure our guests get properly fed during these trying times," says chef Jackson Tran. "Lakewood has been so supportive of us after our COVID closure, and we have to do our due diligence to return the favor when the neighborhood is in need."
Ten Bells Tavern in the Bishop Arts District also opened its doors this week, posting on Facebook that anyone who needs heat is welcome.
“The main thing is people need a warm place with power. We had both with the added benefit of booze and food,” says owner Meri Dahlke. Fortunately, a few key personnel live just blocks away from the British bar with a chef-driven kitchen. Dahlke, who is resting a broken foot at home, asked her crew who lived nearby if they wanted to help open up to the community. They were all in.
“This was a voluntary basis,” she says. “If they would have said no, we wouldn’t have opened. I have a great staff.”
The Peak Inn near Baylor Hospital that serves up an amazing cheeseburger has been keeping the furnace glowing as well. Being near Baylor probably helped, as Oncor avoided cutting off electricity to hospitals.
“No busted pipes! We’re running out of some food items that we’re unable to replenish at the moment due to weather and deliveries being delayed,” says Joel Morales at the Peak Inn. “But we’re able to keep people warm, fed and spirits up.”
They’ve seen some regulars, but a lot of first-timers too, “People are saying they’re glad we’re open."
Oak Cliff Social Club has also been fortunate with a steady stream of electricity and running water. They too have employees who live close by who have helped keep the doors open. A few years ago they installed charging outlets throughout the bar and seating areas, which is now not just an amenity but a necessity.
“Locals have stopped by to charge electronics and to catch a quick sandwich,” owner Peter Saucedo says. He says nearby apartment residents stop by just to avoid going stir crazy.
Pete Zotos at St. Pete's Dancing Marlin in Deep Ellum opened his spot on Wednesday after being closed for three days, in part because he needed to see people. "The worst thing you can do to me is take me away from people," Zotos said.
He made soup and chili with plans on closing at 5 p.m. but wound staying open until 10 p.m. with a steady stream of locals looking for hot food or water. And perhaps, some people just need to see other people.
As temperatures begin cracking 50 degrees for the first time in days, people will thaw out and, hopefully, soon be able to mingle once again. And these bars will, like always, be there.
"It’s the Landing," says Lowery. "Short of the apocalypse, we will be open. We got generators."
Let's don't tempt the universe, Lowery.
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