Ellis has been coming to 5015 pretty regularly since it opened two years ago. He even hosted his thirtieth birthday party here, so he doesn't feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable walking in unaccompanied.
The bartender recognizes him as soon as he walks up, so Ellis engages her in conversation. He's tall, thin and handsome, though, so most likely meeting people and making conversation isn't an issue for him most of the time.
Although he has become a regular at 5015, Ellis does go other places. Some might call that "straying."
"I go to Skybar on Wednesdays," he admits.
Actually, he means he goes to the recently opened Scott Gertner's at Houston Pavilions (1201 Fannin, 3rd Floor). Skybar closed in summer 2010, but the high-rise venue was such a Houston jazz/R&B institution, people may call any Gertner-owned place Skybar well into the hereafter. Ellis even has a church-related reason for straying from 5015 on Wednesdays.
"Don't judge me, but I go right after Bible study — I'm saved, not delivered," he laughs.
But since Ellis is at 5015 at the moment, he'd rather talk about this place. Describing why he's found himself at 5015 so many times, he throws around several buzzwords before arriving on the simplest terms.
"You meet good people here," says Ellis. "I like talking to good people."
"We don't want to be the next big hype," agrees 5015's polite manager, a man named Nic Ozuna. "We want to be around for ten years, build relationships with people. That's why we don't advertise anywhere. Everything is word-of-mouth. You either know about it, or you don't."
This became clear as Nightfly canvassed the 5015 crowd looking for quotes. Several people wouldn't comment or would do so only conditionally, along the lines of, "I can tell you the ambience is nice, but I won't give you my name because I'm a very private person."
Thus far, word-of-mouth and people keeping to themselves has been an effective business model for 5015. The bar has little problem reaching its 200-plus capacity on weekends, filling up with a crowd that is generally black and older than 35.
"If I could change one thing, I'd make it a little bigger," admits Ellis, still 30. "When I threw my party here, it was just extremely packed."
Like its customers, 5015 is not a showy place, just a former dry cleaner that has scrubbed away any evidence of its past. There is zero signage beyond the tiny "5015" painted onto the doors — which could just be the address, come to think of it.
The interior is dark and mostly bare, while sky-blue, studded bar stools offer a bit of color to otherwise industrial innards, like the faux-metal beams that pass for accent pieces. Bamboo-print wallpaper likewise offers a bit of character. Patrons are welcome to recline on one of two outdoor patios, either in wicker seats or leather lounge chairs.
There's live music, mostly R&B, on Saturdays, and a monthly cigar night. Ozuna himself will grill you a steak while you watch on Tuesdays; Thursdays are burger night. Beyond that, 5015 is becoming a trusted destination convenient to the Medical Center, Museum District and Third Ward, a place where folks like Marcus Ellis want to have their birthday parties.
"We don't want to do anything out of the ordinary," explains Ozuna. "We never have a cover or anything like that. You can see people in here in suits or shorts. We want people to be comfortable. That's important."
Friday night, Austin trance-music duo Tritonal performs at Rich's (2401 San Jacinto). We have spent a ton of nights in clubs listening to trance and other kinds of electronic dance music recently, and it turns out EDM isn't as disposable as many (older) people might assume. It's real and fun, and its shows are real fun. But you will never be able to appreciate EDM through your computer. You have to experience it through a top-notch sound system like the one at Rich's.