Pat Green doesn’t know how to run a restaurant. He admitted as much in a recent phone interview with the Houston Press.
“That’s not my gig,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a bit of a flag-waver – a consultant they bring in for the musical elements.”
Josh Sepkowitz and Kyle Noonan, the founders of Free Range Concepts, brought Green into the fold for a mixed-use restaurant and music venue concept. Scheduled to open in Houston next spring, The Rustic is already up and running in Dallas; the San Antonio location will celebrate its grand opening later this month — with Green as the headliner.
Green was confident about going into business with the management group, because Sepkowitz and Noonan boast a combined 20 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality businesses.
“When I was hooking up my wagon to theirs, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting with a couple of dudes who were like, ‘Dude, let’s open a bar,’” says the "Three Days" singer. “But these guys are extremely smart and successful. Before The Rustic, they had quite a few restaurants in the Dallas area that have done quite well.”
Free Range Concepts operates four restaurant chains — Bowl & Barrel, The General Public, Mutts Canine Cantina and now The Rustic, which distinguishes itself by featuring live music entertainment every night of the week.
“The stage in Dallas opens to the outside, and there’s a removable sidewall that we can open into the restaurant,” Green says. “I imagine it will be the same type of thing in Houston.”
A native Texan, Green is no stranger to the greater Houston area. It was in 2011, during a performance at Discovery Green ahead of the NCAA’s Final Four tournament, that he realized downtown Houston might be the next place to be.
“Going downtown when I was a younger man – 30 years ago – you didn’t want to hang out down there,” says Green, who is scheduled to perform at the Pasadena Livestock Show and Rodeo on September 30. “Now every corner is a high-end retail spot or a great restaurant. It’s beautiful.”
Houston’s Rustic will be located near the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green, Green says. It will be the third location in Texas, and more are already in the works.
“The plan is to open a new location every ten to 12 months for the next four or five years.”
Despite his involvement, Green insists The Rustic was his business partners’ brainchild.
“When this whole team came together, it was [Sepkowitz and Noonan’s] idea to include live music,” Green says. “That’s how I came to the table.”
His biggest suggestion? In order for the business to be successful, it can’t rely on music alone.
“It’s very difficult to make live music the centerpiece,” Green says. “So don’t worry about operating a venue; worry about operating a business. We need to have a great restaurant that has music [venue] features.”
At its Dallas location, which holds about 2,200 people, The Rustic hosts ten to 15 big shows a year. Green says the rest will be regional and local acts.
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“For the most part, we just want to be a place to hang out,” Green adds.
Live music will always be a focal point, he continues, but imagining an open mike with just one guy onstage with a guitar would be incorrect, even if that formula is tried and true.
“I remember being that guy so many times,” Green says. “When I was in college, I’d sing at the County Line Barbecue for $100 and a plate of food.
“And it cost me about $75 to rent the PA.”