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Sweet Liberty

Laid-back Liberty Station a winner for cyclists.

The idea can only be brilliant and wonderful or simply horrible. There is no middle ground.

Every Tuesday, a group of people go on a three-to-four-hour bike ride beginning at Liberty Station (2101 Washington), easily the most enjoyable Washington Avenue bar to open in the past six months. They travel to a designated part of town (Montrose, for example), visit a designated number of pubs and bars along the way, and drink a designated number of beers at each (one, typically).

Think of it as a hipper version of the Running Club at Brian O'Neill's (5555 Morningside). Jogging is so 2010.

Liberty Station's walls are colorfully decorated with paintings from Houston artists.
Larami Culbertson
Liberty Station's walls are colorfully decorated with paintings from Houston artists.

It's potentially brilliant because it's a neat little exercise in the dynamics of socializing and is, in fact, actual exercise. And it's potentially horrible because you could be crushed to smithereens by a bus when, after marinating in beer for a bit, your brain decides it would be really smart to ride a wheelie across the bridge over Highway 59.

"The goal isn't to drink a lot," laughs Charles Bishop, a former restaurant manager and now the gregarious co-owner of Liberty Station. "It's not a fast-paced ride. We take the back streets, everyone has lights. We just go and ride."

Bishop walks through the venue for an impromptu tour as Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" curiously plays in the background. A Scottish terrier sits on a seat at one table, while a man orders some deep-fried masterpiece from the Zilla Street Eats truck parked out front to put in his gullet. None of this is out of the ordinary.

They [the rides] never get out of hand," says Jamey Moore, father of a rambunctious four-year-old girl and regular participant in the Liberty Station Bike Crawl. "It's very laid-back, just like the bar."

Laid-back: It's the default term people use when describing Liberty Station. Everybody, from the young professionals to the neighborhood folks, invokes these same two words over and over again. Fair enough, as that's exactly what the owners intended when they built it.

Built as a gas station, Liberty's original structure remains mostly intact and acts as the spine. Decorations and diversions include art from local artists hanging brightly in one section, a bar top crafted from historic wood, a Cornhole (bean-bag toss) court dominating one section of the front patio, large glass garage-style doors and cutesy hanging lights.

Like the nearby Dark Horse Tavern (2207 Washington), Liberty Station has a much homier attitude than the bars a little further down the avenue.

"That way down there is bullshit," says Javier Recendez, a former manager at The Flying Saucer (705 Main), pointing towards the shinier section of Washington. "Some guys went to Sawyer Park (2412 Washington) after an Astros game wearing Astros jerseys and they didn't let them in.

"They didn't let them in because they were wearing Astros jerseys. It's a sports bar! It's like, why are we being so pretentious, you know? I could come here in pajama pants and a wife beater and they'd let me in."

"There's a phrase that one of my buddies uses to describe us," offers Bishop. "It goes, 'It's where the poor come to drink and the rich don't mind.'

"I like that. I hope that's how people see us."

Let's hope. And let's hope the buses see those bike riders.
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LAST CALL

Muhammidali, Darwin's Finches

Welcome to the New Year, everyone. This is the first official Nightfly column of 2011, which means it's been about three years that we've been steering this ship. Your continued support means a ton (not as much as if you mailed us $20, but whatevs). Celebrate whatever it is that needs celebrating this Saturday at Fitzgerald's (2706 White Oak) with Muhammidali, one of Houston's very best rock bands, and Darwin's Finches (another band, not Darwin's actual finches). The show is free if you're over 21. An Elvis impersonator will be there too, because it's Elvis's birthday. That's three check marks, suckas.

 
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