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Mink Changes Owners, Management Nearly Overnight

Houston's The Energy at The Mink, July 2011
Houston's The Energy at The Mink, July 2011
Allison Wagoner

White Mystery wasn't just the name of the band playing The Mink on Saturday night. There was a palpable feeling of tension and "weirdness," as one person put it, at the Midtown venue as word continued to spread across the Houston indie community that one of their favorite hangouts had been sold. Onstage, the show went on, albeit somewhat chaotically.

Danielle Wegner confirmed to Rocks Off that she and her partner, Synda, bought The Mink Thursday. She described herself as an entrepreneur, real-estate agent and small-business owner who moved to Houston from Michigan six years ago.

"It was dying," said Wegner, who was working behind the downstairs bar in the Backroom area. Still, "we like the place," she added. "We like the feel, we like the vibe - it's comfortable."

Wegner said she had been hanging out at the Mink for a while, and looking to buy a bar: "When the opportunity came, I seized it."

However, the change in ownership caught the Mink's employees by surprise, and many have since left the bar. "Nobody told us anything," said one staffer who was still working there Saturday - temporarily, he added, requesting Rocks Off not use his name.

The transition "could have been better, but we're working it out," Wegner admitted.

The Mink has been a popular gathering spot among young Houston hipsters for several years, beloved for its cheap drinks - especially on Tuesday, when the $1 well drinks turn the venue into a riot of facial hair, vintage clothing and Converse sneakers - and a local-friendly booking policy heavy on punk, metal, indie and hip-hop as well as regular DJ nights such as A Fistful of Soul.

The Mink also drew occasional big-name roadshows like Denmark goth-punks Iceage, ex-Minuteman Mike Watt and New York indie-poppers Vivian Girls.

"The Mink is that fun friend who never showers but you still keep hanging with him anyway," one Yelp! reviewer posted in July. "His bathroom is disastrous, but he occasionally plays good music in the back so you put up with it."

 

Denmark's Iceage at The Mink's Backroom, July 2011
Denmark's Iceage at The Mink's Backroom, July 2011
Allison Wagoner

Wegner told Rocks Off she's not planning to change a whole lot, saying the new owners want to "make it like it is, but better." The $1-well Tuesdays will continue, she said, and "a ton" of new specials are in the works.

So far, though, what reaction there has been has sounded more like the Mink was closing rather than under new management. Houston punk band and Mink regulars The Energy, who were on the bill with White Mystery, posted the message "come burn down the Mink with us tonight" on Hands Up Houston late Saturday. "Show is not cancelled," they said on Facebook. "Give war a chance."

There were no flames Saturday, but for a weekend punk show, which often drew sweaty, boisterous, overflow crowds to the patio between the Backroom and the smaller bar that opens onto Main, the crowd was noticeably thinner than the usual throng, and the mood was considerably more subdued.

Wegner said she still planned on being a music venue, and would like to see the Mink's bill of fare "branch out a bit and have a little more variety." She has been contacted by several promoters about booking shows at the club, she added, but had not decided on a permanent booking agent for the venue yet.

The shows that were already booked will stand, Wegner said, and the Mink is booked out for a couple of months. When Rocks Off asked that employee who requested anonymity about what he thought would happen, though, he just shrugged.

"It's up in the air," he said. "I don't expect any of [the shows] to happen."

The venue will still be called The Mink "for now," Wegner said. She wouldn't comment on any possible physical changes to the club beyond saying there would likely be a few "repairs."

Not surprisingly, some of the Mink's now-former employees have had some harsh words about the changes on Facebook and Hands Up. Wegner said she hoped to keep any "bashing" of the club's transition to a minimum, but in the tone of voice of someone who suspected otherwise.

"People don't like change," she said.


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