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Dan Hunt, co-owner, TOC Bar Houston 2002 - Comeback Kids!

Tropical Storm Allison reigned over downtown like a nightmare turned horribly real. How did the folks over at TOC Bar deal with the aftermath of this pernicious force of nature? With complete and utter denial. "We never closed," declares co-owner Dan Hunt. "We always stayed open. We didn't give people the chance to find out if we were closed or not."

Spoken like a true businessman. After the storm nearly turned the three-year-old watering hole and several other area bars into actual holes of water (five and a half feet deep in some places), Hunt, the TOC staff and a bevy of volunteers immediately went into action to get the bar in tip-top shape for the following weekend rush. "By Monday or Tuesday, the water was gone," remembers Hunt. "And we just gutted the place, you know? We threw all the furniture out, came in and cleaned the heck out of everything with pressure washers and lots of soap and bleach and everything to get all the stink out."

According to Hunt, it took him and his crew four days to scrub all the reminders of Allison from their walls and floors. And did they throw a major bash to signal their return to form? Nope, it was just business as usual. "I don't think we did anything special," says Hunt, still apparently in denial. "We just tried to play it off like everything was back to normal."

TOC Bar may have been a mess, but the connecting TOC Lounge was completely shot to hell. With $200,000 worth of damage, the TOC Bar's one-year-old spin-off chill room became a casualty of the storm. Hunt and TOC decided not to rebuild the lounge -- not because it was impossible, but because they had disagreements with the land owner over fair rent prices in a post-9/11, construction-centric downtown.

Despite the cost of the cleanup and the loss of the lounge, TOC has recovered. The bar is as rowdy and rambunctious as ever, almost to the point that you forget the place was a lake, briefly, about a year ago. "The last time I thought about it was on my tax return," says Hunt. "I don't think anybody even thinks about it anymore." TOC may stand for Totally Out of Control, but it was nice to see the club's staff and owners keep their cool in a crisis.

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