UPDATED: Pearl Bar Visited By Comptroller Saturday Night
The forlorn patio of Pearl Bar today
Photos by Craig Hlavaty
UPDATED (Tuesday, 9:09 a.m.) with clarification from TABC.
UPDATE 2 (Wednesday, 1:45 p.m.): R.J. DaSilva of the state comptroller's office said his office had conducted a "limited seizure" operation at Pearl Bar Saturday.
According to sources in the Washington Avenue bar scene, Pearl Bar (4216 Washington) was
raided and shut down visited this past Saturday night. The doors have been padlocked, and The bar's safe was reportedly seized.
Dustin Evans, owner of Pearl Bar's neighbor Underdogs, said a Pearl doorman told him that Pearl had been visited by agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Texas State Comptroller's Office about 8 p.m. Saturday night. The doorman told Evans that the agents changed Pearl's locks and cleaned out the registers.
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"[The comptroller] did what they normally do when taxes are due," Evans said.
Lt. Tana Travis of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Division's Houston office said Monday afternoon that the TABC had investigated Pearl Bar Saturday night while assisting the state comptroller's office, but declined to go into specifics. Wednesday morning, she said she would not characterize the agencies' activity as a "raid," and said the doors were not locked nor the locks changed, and in fact Pearl Bar was still open when the agents left.
However, Travis admitted "there was currency taken by the comptroller."
TABC's online records show that Pearl Bar is currently on the agency's "delinquent list" under its credit law, and that its license was suspended in November 2012 for violating the cash law. It had also violated the credit law twice since the suspension expired on December 1.
Other TABC records show that Pearl Bar's owners, Waymon Morris LLC, owe wholesalers in excess of $4,000.
Evans said that he did not know Pearl Bar's owners at all, but that recently Pearl had only been open from 8 p.m. to close on Fridays and Saturdays. The rest of Washington Avenue has also been struggling, he added.
"It's bad up and down Washington right now," Evans said. "Most of Houston's down, probably 10 percent."
A far cry from its days winning our 2008 Best of Houston® award for "Best New Bar," Pearl Bar had definitely seen better days. It was one of the first bars to capitalize on the big Washington Avenue boom that began around 2007 (see slideshows). But its social-media and Web storefronts have long gone cold, as the avenue's crowds have moved farther west to Kung Fu Saloon, or to Upper Kirby and points in Midtown.
To the bar's credit, I do remember a time when I could drink Pearl beer at Pearl Bar for a buck a can, to the consternation of friends. The back patio was always a hotbed of ladies in sparkly shit and dudes inches away from fighting over said ladies in sparkly shit.
A Houston Press cover story in early 2010 dove into the world of the Washington bar scene, which at that point was reaching its exact apex.
But during its time in the spotlight, Pearl was one of the most popular bars on the strip, with lines to get in and a busy valet straining traffic nearby. The area surrounding the bar has gone through much change the past year and a half. The Lot has turned into craft beer joint Underdogs Pub, the Dubliner is now the party-rocking Lava Rock, and Reign Lounge was shut down and its inner workings largely destroyed by the former owners down to the granite countertops.
Pearl shared a building with Salt, which never quite found an audience for its manly margaritas and is now called Little J's.
Across the street, Washington Avenue Drinkery is still thriving with Bob Covington now handling the menu, and you all know that Walter's on Washington is now Walters near downtown. That old building continues to lie dormant.
No word yet on what will happen to the location, but surely most of you would love it to be restored to its former glory as an indie venue.
Most of you may also remember when Pearl Bar was Mary Jane's Fat Cat, which of course played host to everyone from the Black Keys, Of Montreal, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Murder City Devils, the Jesus Lizard, various legendary hardcore acts, and every other local band of the day lucky enough to get on a bill.
Ozone City Outrage has a cool collection of flyers from Mary Jane's right here as well.
Music Editor Chris Gray contributed reporting.