What Has Happened to Washington Avenue?
Pearl Bar in happier times
Photo by Bill Olive
To be perfectly honest, I never much cared for Washington Avenue. Then again, I don't have anything resembling what you might call a South Beach personality. I tend to shun velvet ropes and collared shirts after hours, and I definitely prefer either a band be onstage or to hang out somewhere you don't have to shout to be heard.
Those kinds of places grew in short supply as Washington became Houston's pre-eminent adult playground these past few years. But its luster has slowly dimmed when confronted by increasing traffic congestion, exploding residential development and newer nightlife districts like upper Kirby, where Houston's young people just seem to be having more fun.
And even now the avenue isn't a total write-off. The Dark Horse is still around (and hopefully always will be), the Blue Moose Lodge is bringing in some of the region's finer lesser-known country artists once a week, and the monthly Bombon at Fox Hollow is going great guns as Houston's hottest recurring Latin dance party.
But it was still hard not to read this past weekend's developments as a significant signpost on the avenue's timeline. And not a happy one, either. Saturday, the state comptroller's office visited the ailing Pearl Bar, which had also run afoul of the TABC several times recently. In turn, one of Pearl's neighbors told us he thought recent business on Washington could be down by as much as 10 percent. Reports of state visits to nearby bars have already started to trickle in.
Former porn star and "hedgehog" Ron Jeremy hosted a party at one of Washington's older clubs, The Drake, last month.
Naturally, Washington's woes came as welcome news to some readers who characterize the scene as full of status-obssessed "douchebags" and carpetbagging suburbanites looking for an easy hookup and to drink their fill of kamikazes or Jaeger bombs. Others lament the days when Washington housed some of Houston's finest live-music halls, such as Rockefeller's, Satellite Lounge, the Vatican, Mary Jane's, the Bon Ton Room and Club Hey Hey.
We selected some of the more choice Facebook comments from our original post, and welcome you to join in, whether you would like to pile on Washington's woes, or simply remember the street in happier times.
Jack Gilbert: "Apparently, one-size-fits-all trendiness is no longer trending upward."
William Michael Smith: "If there's anything to evolution, three years from now all those nouveau bars will be gone, replaced by taquerias and adult book stores, like Washington used to be."
Jimi Austin: "Bad area for an entertainment district. Not near enough parking, narrow streets, and not a single hotel."
Several former Playboy Playmates visited Ei8ht Bar last August.
Photo by Son Lam
Chris Dunaway: "Answer: Washington Avenue has been terrible for a while now."
Joshua Justice: "Yes Jimi, if only they had more parking, it wouldn't ended up like every other Houston entertanment district ever."
Stanley Smith: "Washington has grown past the capability of the neighborhood(s) too many bars, not enough anything else."
Adam Castaneda: "Now THIS is what comptrolling is really all about. Thumbs up."
Stanley Smith: "You'd think with all the additional tax revenue generated by the Washington Ave businesses the city would encourage improvement."
The scene at Hughes Hangar, one of Washington's most opulent nightclubs, in June 2012.
Photo by Son Lam
NewRider Ivan: "Wonder what took so long. That part of Washington has been dying since The Lot started slowing down. Sucks, I used to really like the Lot, before all the ghetto people started going in. The staff was freaking great there too. Pearl Bar, I always thought it sucked. Was cool when they had the music awards shows up and down those bars, though."
Austin Cooley: "The place used to be Mary Jane's, the site of many a cool show. There was a time when that stretch of Washington had a number of great music venues -- not anymore. Don't worry, when the douchebags finally completely abandon that area, those sorts of venues will return."
Roland Gonzalez: "Where are all the HOUSTON DOUCHEBAGS going to be at on weekends?? hopefully not on the Westheimer / Montrose area..... WE DONT WANT THEM THERE !!!"
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