When it comes to nightlife in Houston, drama is a given.
Nearly every week something colossal happens: A club gets shut down and wild rumors fly; egos among club owners, GMs and DJs clash as often as Ja Rule finds his way on some other artist's song; somebody stabs somebody because they didn't have enough gin in their sour apple martini. So leave it to a trio of club-owning brothers in this city to take the damn cake and get indicted for their involvement in the biggest global Ecstasy ring in recorded history. Only in Houston, folks.
On September 17, news broke that federal authorities had uncovered an international Ecstasy-trafficking ring that spread as far as L.A., Miami, Israel, Spain and the Netherlands. Of the 34 people who got the perp walk, three just happen to run Spy (112 Travis) and The Hub (312 Main), a couple of the most successful nighttime hangouts downtown. Sarabjeet "Rick" Singh, Amarjit Singh and Amrik "Spiro" Singh stand charged in the conspiracy of many misdeeds, including intent to distribute the well-known party drug. Also arrested were Hub "nominee owner" Mickey Grewal and Spy employee Byron Walton, along with a dozen other Houstonians.
The assets from both Spy and the Hub were seized -- along with $11 million, three local homes, several vehicles and a partridge in a pear tree -- since it is alleged that the clubs were bought with drug money and may have been used to launder drug profits.
Meanwhile, the folks who still work at both clubs are attempting to clean up the mess their bosses have created. They're trying to maintain attractive businesses while debunking rumors that the clubs are shut down, or are staffed entirely by uniformed federal marshals, or are a Shangri-la for gobblers of disco biscuits.
So, for the record, Spy co-general manager Bobby Stark says both Spy and The Hub are still open, not being actively run by the government, and shady types aren't hanging around asking patrons if they're fixed up. "There are no federal marshals," explains Stark. "It's the same staff. As far as the customers are concerned, nothing has really changed."
According to Stark, both clubs are being run the same way they always were. (Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up to you.) But now, both clubs' profits are put in an escrow account that can't be touched ("not by the government and not by us," says Stark) until the end of the impending trial. "All that's changed is that we have a different accountant now," Stark says.
The day after the news broke, downtown Houston couldn't have been quieter, especially at The Hub, where the two bartenders were watching a Bill Pullman movie on one of the big screens and waiting for somebody, anybody, to show up. Spy wasn't exactly filled to the brim, either, but there was a small crowd on hand (after all, it was "Pop Muzik" night). Taking in the ambience that evening was Reverend TiG, formerly of Bozo Porno Circus and Bamboo Crisis, who wasn't at all concerned about the hubbub. "I honestly think it will get more business," said TiG. That sentiment was echoed by Jonathan Kramm, a promoter/organizer who held the randy rock/dance exhibition "A Taste of Sin 2" at the club just last week. He added that the club isn't (and never was) the place to get hooked up. "I've never seen any drug activity at this club, ever," said Kramm. "That's one of the things I like about this place: It's a nice, clean club." (As for that last claim, even the feds agree. Authorities have said that neither Spy nor The Hub is under investigation for drug sales on the premises.)
If there's anyone who's ready to put the minds of local clubgoers at ease, it's "Pop Muzik" DJ Mike Snow, who has recently taken on the de facto job of defending nightclubs in the court of public opinion (see "Fear and Loathing in the Warehouse District," September 19). "Ninety percent of it has been false!" exclaims Snow on the Spy/Hub story. As usual, Snow took to the Internet to set the record straight, issuing an e-mail declaring that Spy is neither closed nor being run by the feds. "Nothing illegal is going on, so there's no reason to shut it down," says Snow, who insists that Spy has been "a straight-up operation since day one."
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Needless to say, Stark denies that he and his staff had any involvement in the drug-related goings-on of the club owners. Says Stark, "The main thing that people need to know is that Spy is open, and The Hub is open, and nothing has changed."
Well, let's just round up the bevy of exciting weekly happenings that are legally going on all around this city -- and by city, we mean downtown.
On Tuesdays, Dean's (316 Main) invites patrons to take in "Soul Station," where DJ Starsign and DJ Lil Tiger vow to play all things soul-related. The following night, the boozerdashery invites the band Little Brother Project to play some acid jazz and funk. Also that night, you could head over to The Rhythm Room (1815 Washington Avenue) to partake in "This Old House," their hip-hop/dancehall/house industry night. "WhereElse Wednesdays" at Paesanos Lounge (213 Milam) feature the oft-revered skills of DJ Aggravated. Friday nights at Azure (723 Main) are a "Tease," starring the music of DJ Penetrate. This party is immediately followed by their after-hours throwdown, intriguingly called "Rise." Live Sports Cafe (407 Main) has "Noches del Infierno," which, judging by the flyer with the fine-ass señorita on it, attracts a lot of Latina honeys. You can round it all out with "Classic Sundays" over at Club Vision (2117 Chenevert), featuring Platinum Assault and LeRoy Peters covering the whole damn night with wall-to-wall '80/early-'90s hits.