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Downtown's Waterloo

NoDo nightclub owners ask what hath God wrought

Now that we've all gotten through The Great Texas Record Flood Disaster Chainsaw Massacre of 2001, the hip people can get back to their regular routine of putting on the tightest, most expensive leather outfits and heading out for another fun-filled night in that epicenter of contemporary chicness: downtown Houston. But before these boppers and ballas boogaloo down Main Street, they should be aware that some clubs are still feeling the repercussions of that long, bad Friday.

Nearly all of the nightspots downtown had to briefly close during that waterlogged weekend, with Allison soaking a few floors here and there. But the majority of clubs were spared the storm's full fury. Basement alt-rock hangout Metropol (804 Fannin) surprisingly received minimal damage. Owner Tim Murrah says only an inch of water flowed into the venue, which is fortunate considering he had a Brit-pop music festival scheduled for June 14-16, featuring three bands from London. How does Murrah explain this good luck? "God's on our side," proclaims Murrah. "God's got a purpose for Metropol, dude!"

The Mercury Room(1008 Prairie), another NoDo spot, also miraculously survived the onslaught of rolling water. In fact, the Room was one of the few nighttime establishments that remained in business through that weekend. "We were lucky," says owner David Edwards, who attributes the close call to the building's structural durability. "We dodged a bullet."

Other haunts weren't so lucky, mainly those located right along Buffalo Bayou. The Brewery Tap (717 Franklin) was deluged with about 57 inches of water. The employees and patrons of Paesano's Lounge (213 Milam) also had to clear out. But the two spots most affected were underground batcave Rehab (709 Franklin) and the interconnecting combo of TOC Bar (711 Franklin) and TOC Lounge (112 Milam). "I think we probably took the worst of all the places downtown," says general manager Carlos Palomo.

The management at TOC says that by Saturday morning, the bar received three-and-a-half feet of water, whereas the lounge was immersed in water eight feet deep. While the bar needed only a paint job before reopening (it started drawing beers again on Thursday, June 14), the year-old TOC Lounge(formerly Lava Lounge) was another matter. They had to throw out 181 cases of beer. The coolers were toast, so to speak. And the light and sound systems -- even those in storage -- were fried. The water destroyed the walls and the bartop. Some $200,000 -- and the Lord's mercy -- is needed to resuscitate the sodden nightspot. If they can raise some cash and secure a grant from Uncle Sam's little piggy bank named FEMA, the owners believe they might reopen the lounge in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, the TOC boys remain upbeat. "You got some money we can borrow?" jokes owner Ian Crissman.

Located right underneath the TOC establishments, Rehab was also massively flushed out. General manager Chris Alan asked his employees to take whatever they could -- cash registers, amplifiers and other sound equipment, personal belongings -- when water began surrounding the joint. Explains Alan: "Within less than 30 minutes, it was chest-deep, and I wouldn't let anybody go back in."

It wasn't until the following Monday when Alan and his crew could come back. "Things that need to be replaced are being replaced," confirms Alan, who estimates the club suffered $60,000 in damage. Even though his crew and volunteers were still scrubbing out the mildew with disinfectant, club brass was determined to open Rehab back up on Thursday. "We can't wait for the government to give us a check," says Alan. "Otherwise, we'd all have to go find jobs at Stop-N-Go." Besides, from the way Alan tells it, it could have been worse. "A five-and-a-half-foot alligator was out here swimming," recalls Alan, chuckling. "We've been in here wading around, and there's an alligator right here in this bayou -- that could've been here with us!"

Last Call

CONXTION 2000 (800 Almeda Mall) will have some flooding of its own going on this week. On Friday, June 22, the club's weekly minirave "Friday Night Karma" will be hosting its first foam party. Local folks who have only heard stories about foam machines billowing suds in overseas clubs will finally have the chance to experience it for themselves. "Sixty-five percent of the dance floor will be covered in foam," predicts DJ/event co-organizer Kung Fu Pimp. Foam parties are rare in Houston. Although there have reportedly been some at Rich's (2401 San Jacinto), there hasn't been a well-documented foam free-for-all since the now-defunct Shelterand Power Tools (now, of course, Rehab) dropped a couple back in 1996. The folks behind this throwdown are taking precautions: Patrons must sign a waiver before entering the club; an EMT team will be on hand in case somebody gets hurt; and spectators are advised not to show up in his or her flyest gear. (Ladies are especially encouraged to dress down -- just bikini tops and shorts.) Pimp says if all goes well, another foam party will commence for FNK's first anniversary in August. "Why spend so much money on [out-of-town] DJs when we can bring people together for one common thing?" explains the Pimp.

Is he talking about the foam or the gals in bikini tops?

 
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