Drinking

We Say a Sad Goodbye to Black Swan with Gabe Sanchez

2700 block of Elm in the late 1970s, where Black Swan, Fuzzy's Tacos and Three Links stand today.
2700 block of Elm in the late 1970s, where Black Swan, Fuzzy's Tacos and Three Links stand today. Don Cass
We've been hearing rumors for months now, but Dallas was dealt another blow with Wednesday's announcement that Black Swan Saloon, our Deep Ellum staple for the last 10 years, will not reopen.

This bar was a staff favorite, and for good reason. It was welcoming; it felt like you were in someone's home, whether you went four times a week or you were experiencing it for the first time.

Owner and our 2019 Best Bartender, Gabe Sanchez, closed it March 16 in accordance with the state's mandate. He pivoted at the beginning of quarantine by selling to-go cocktail mixes like his famous bloody mary mix and his famous T-shirts but went dark in more recent months.

With an Instagram post Wednesday, we learned the fate of one of our favorite bars: "After 10 years there is not an easy way to say goodbye," the post read. "We had a great run."


We then saw an outpouring of love for the bar in the comments and reposts, sharing memories of the cozy place.

We spoke with Sanchez on Friday, and we'll just say there was emotion on both ends of the phone.

"I didn't expect any of this support. It's been cool, to say the least," Sanchez said.

The bar was well-loved, but there was a "cool factor" surrounding the place. It was the kind of joint that always felt like a well-kept secret that everyone knew. Many donned Black Swan T-shirts (usually the shirt depicting The Duke) in exotic places. Sanchez said the first time his shirt was taken abroad and documented was in Antarctica, "and now the shirts have been to Jerusalem, the pyramids in Egypt, scuba diving, and to Kilimanjaro."


click to enlarge @blackswansaloon: "@ebanpacheco super high in Colorado. He’s on top of Pike’s Peak. Omg." - @EBANPACHECO ON INSTAGRAM
@blackswansaloon: "@ebanpacheco super high in Colorado. He’s on top of Pike’s Peak. Omg."
@ebanpacheco on Instagram
The beginning for the bar with no sign was in April 2010. Featuring live music and Sanchez's infused liquor, the new spot had Dallas excited. Coming from Las Vegas, Sanchez had an idea of what Dallas was. Once he opened, he saw that "this is such a cool, cool city, and the industry is amazing."

The first time Sanchez realized his bar was a special place was after an industry event when the emcee announced he'd be visiting Black Swan, and everyone followed. Sanchez remembered, "I read about these people, and the next thing I knew, the room was full of them, and we were having casual conversations across my bar."

We all seem to have memories from Black Swan. The industry darling hosted some of our favorite bartenders on Sunday nights and was the setting for great conversation, late nights and more. Sanchez, often called Uncle Gabe for good reason, remembered patrons bringing their moms and grandpas to meet him, which really drove home the realization that he'd built more than a bar: He was part of his patrons' lives.

But this familiar feel we all had was thanks to his constant presence. He opened the bar as a young, single man who could work 90 hours a week and loved doing it. He's now 10 years older with a wife and son and realized when he had the chance to be home after the shutdown that he wanted to be more present — and he wanted to swear off having some meals consisting of only coffee. That was the main reason for the closure: He said COVID-19 didn't kill the bar, but "it definitely put it on its fucking path."

So what's next for the bar? Sanchez handed if off to a couple of Deep Ellum barmen — the owner of Will Call Bar, J.R. Munoz, and Raj Pole, formerly of the Bomb Factory team. They plan to open Elm Street Saloon in the space at 2708 Elm St. We'll be on the lookout for more news there.

As for Sanchez? He has some irons in the fire but isn't making any decisions just yet. He plans to wait and see what the "new normal" looks like, and we'll be first in line to hear how he'll change our (boozy) lives next.
"It's been cool to be a part of people's lives," he said. "I don't know how to say thank you to people enough for that."
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susie Oszustowicz