"I started feeling picked on, okay?"
This is what John Finlay remembers most about briefly running a club in the Galleria area. After only three months of operation, his late-night/after-hours combo, the Current Nightclub/Citrus Room (1800 Post Oak), officially closed its doors in June. Interestingly enough, one of the many factors that prompted the club's abrupt closing was, well, its doors. Located in the back of the Post Oak Pavilion shopping center, the club had only one entrance/exit at its disposal. According to Finlay, a couple of fire marshals (whom he describes as "very unpleasant") didn't feel the venue offered enough of an escape route for the high occupancy the operator was reaching for. "Because of that, they were saying that my occupancy limit was 49 people," says Finlay. "And there's no club I've ever heard of that could make it with only 49 people as an occupancy."
Marshals apparently ordered Finlay to build an emergency exit inside the club or else be fined thousands of dollars. But Finlay says, "The landlord comes back to me and says, 'We really don't want to do anything because, you know, we've decided to tear down the shopping center. And your lease is going to expire in the fall of 2001, and so we don't wanna incur any more expenses.' " (Radler Enterprises Texas Inc., the corporation that owns the Post Oak Pavilion, had no comment.)
As if heat from fire marshals and the prospect of permanently closing weren't bad enough, another party began to rear its head. In an effort to show lost clubgoers the way to his back-door club, Finlay placed signs around the center's street entrance. The business improvement group known as the Uptown Houston Association began harping that Finlay couldn't "desecrate" the land with those signs. "You have to check the city sign ordinance, but, I mean, it's simply illegal to put signs such as that on the public right-of-way," says John Breeding, president of the Uptown Houston Association.
The Nightfly took the dare and made a call to the city secretary's office, which confirmed that signs placed on public rights-of-way are indeed illegal, unless a person seeks permission from City Council. Regardless, when the subject of fines was broached, Finlay began to feel picked on. "You start telling me that not only can I only have 50 people in my club, but they're also gonna fine me for this and fine me for that," remembers Finlay. "It's like, gee whiz, you know?"
If you ask Finlay, the biggest headache throughout the ordeal involved getting the word out over radio airwaves, something that did not work well -- at all. "The biggest money waste for me was advertising so much on the radio, 'cause it didn't bring me a crowd," says Finlay. "If I had one thing to do over again, other than trying to figure out this door thing first, it would've been not spending, you know, $75,000 in three months on radio." That's right, you heard him -- $75,000 in three freakin' months!
Although Finlay says the club began making money during its third month, he decided to call it quits before more migraines started to pound in his temples. But weep not for him. This enterprising lad, who also runs the nightlife magazine Concierge, is looking to take another stab at running a club (the brave, stubborn son of a bitch!) once he officially clears out of Post Oak this fall. You can't help but wonder, with downtown nightlife surging every damn weekend, can a thriving club scene swell out of the Galleria area?
Brian Riggs, manager of the long-running Roxy (5351 West Alabama), says if possible club owners want to get something going in his neck of the woods, they have to know what it takes. Says Riggs, "Location is a big thing -- people have to find you. And then, you gotta get a good staff, and promote it the best you can, however you can."
Well, God bless the next poor bastard who plans to set up a club over there.
Every week it seems like a club offers up a new night of music and fun that promises to have folks drooling with delight -- or something like that. Here are just a few recent examples: Last week, on the Fourth of July, the hip-as-hell Tonic (310 Main) introduced "Blaze" to downtown dwellers. Hyped up as a night of "spicy house rhythms scorching with flavor," the evening offers the turntable talents of DJs Rocky B and Van Franklin. So the promised spiciness may not be an empty boast after all. The week before that, the warehouse funhouse known as Hyperia (2001 Commerce) started up "Hype Thursdays," with card-carrying party boys DJ Penetrate and Michael DeGrace providing a soundtrack for the all-night frolicking. And the week before that, way out at 5851 Southwest Freeway, Club Upscale brought out "Proper Fridayz," which basically consists of any underground DJ (Q Logic, DJ Mel, Steve Sheffield) who has written for Tha Pride magazine. So if you've written for that 'zine and have some reasonable spinning skills, there's a couple of decks waiting for you.
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