St. John's/River Oaks Land Deal Said to Include Blanco's

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that private River Oaks prep school St. John's has purchased a 13-acre tract of land that includes Blanco's, central Houston's only remaining traditional country-western music venue (or "honky-tonk"). However, the school's headmaster said there were no immediate plans to redevelop the property.

"We will be meeting with them shortly to discuss how best to move forward," Mark Desjardins told reporter Nancy Sarnoff via email. "We really want to take our time and thoughtfully and strategically consider how to best incorporate this land into fulfilling our mission as a school and partner in the Houston community."

Blanco's was built as a day-care center in the early '70s but became a different sort of playpen when it was bought by the late Barry DeBakey, son of famous Houston heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, about ten years later. It is now owned by Barry's son Barry C. Debakey and Karin Barnes, who manages the bar.

Never open on the usual kick-up-your-heels night, Saturday (which is reserved for private parties), over the years Blanco's has hosted a litany of local, regional and occasionally Nashville country artists, including Chris Wall, Cooder Graw, Hollisters, Jim Lauderdale, Dale Watson, Gary P. Nunn, Derailers, Cornell Hurd Band, and local acts including Miss Leslie & Her Juke Jointers, Amber Digby, Snit's Dog & Pony Show and Mike Stinson.

It managed to endure the opening of nearby Goode's Armadillo Palace, which started booking many artists who had had a virtual lock on Blanco's, and took some criticism in recent years for hosting cover bands and not drawing a younger crowd or attracting newer acts. Still, Blanco's current calendar is more than solid, featuring Jesse Dayton and Jason Allen as well as Digby, Hurd, Derailers and Watson.

But overall, Blanco's opened as an approximation of a traditional Texas honky-tonk, and that's exactly what it has remained. The one thing it did change, installing an Internet jukebox, was a bad idea (in our opinion).

How much longer it will stay that way is now uncertain.

Previously owned by the Taub family, the tract bought by St. John's would increase the size of the school's land holdings by 33 percent and also includes the River Oaks Plant House, a fortune teller, and a parking lot leased by St. Luke's United Methodist Church, the Chronicle reported.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.