Washington Avenue, One Year Later: Not As "Wild"

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Today the Rocks Off team unveils our newest cover feature, "Getting Past The Bouncer" (or, in print, "Bar Codes"), in which we investigate more in-depth December's "Hydeout at Hudson" controversy, and examined the door policies at some of the other nicer watering holes in town.

It brought to mind the last time Rocks Off covered a bar scene.

About a year ago, I went into the breach of Washington Avenue, which at the time was the hottest thing going in the Houston drinking scene. There were jitneys trolling up and down the street, most notably the Washington Wave, and sites like Yelp were hopping with new additions.

There were pretty girls running around tight-fitting dresses, some puking, a lot of giggling, and guys in sport coats and nice shoes helping them along. In my capacity as bar listings editor, I could hardly keep up. I had only known the street by going to shows at Walter's on Washington or the random birthday party I attended.

A colleague of mine at the time, Mike Giglio, had been towed away off a side street off Washington in late 2009 and Nightfly writer Shea Serrano had already been profiling the goings on up and down the 77007 Zip code here and there. I just like to drink, so we all joined forces to cover the Washington scene in January 2010.

With visions of Bret Easton Ellis books and Ke(Dollar Sign)ha songs dancing in my head, I spent three weeks out of the Montrose bars to see how our brothers a few miles away did things.

What we found was no different than any other bar scene in town since the beginning of time. Girls in hot clothes, guys buying them drinks, innocuous music, drunken fights set to innocuous music over said hot girls, random bachelorette parties, and lines to get in must everywhere, including Ei8ht, Manor and, most of the time, Rebels Honky Tonk. (Ask Robert Ellis about Rebels; he may have a cool story for you.)

After the article came out, I remember getting a lot of angry phone calls from people claiming that I was wrong in my assertion that, over three weeks of accumulating bar tabs on the avenue, the scene was mostly Anglo in nature.

I just didn't see many other people around. It wasn't as if I was seeking minorities, either. I took friends of all kinds up and down the street and they all said the same thing.

But as the Hudson story exploded by the end of the year, I realized that maybe the reason they were saying that was the clubs' door policies. I was the typical oblivious white guy (even though I'm not that white) and just assumed it was because the clubs catered to Anglos.

It was hard to not feel guilty that my appearance got me into places that other people couldn't. It's one thing to have tattoos that somehow give you street cred to people, which makes you fit in at rock and roll bars, but it's another to hear stories of friends and colleagues being shut out of places just for their ethnicity, or the discriminatory baggage that club owners make their bouncers hold for them.

But then there are bars, like The BUS and the Tavern on Gray that don't like seeing tattoos like mine so I get shut out, so there's that.

A year later, Washington Avenue seems like it's in flux again. The old offenders are still rolling, like the bars mentioned in the cover features, but now you have places like Liberty Station making their mark as bars you don't need to dress up for.

Walter's is still threatening a move, and the Washington Avenue Drinkery still hates Ed Hardy and Affliction shirts. Well, most everybody does anyhow.

The Blue Moose Lodge has live music now, mostly Texas country artists here and there, which could start signaling the return of live, original music to the avenue. Salt Bar, next to Pearl Bar, tried an open-mike night that garnered more snickers than kudos, along with other candy references.

Washington Avenue isn't as exclusive as we all once thought, and a quick drive down the street now at closing time isn't so bad as it once was, and you can see more colors of the rainbow than you ever did before.

There's now a bar on the block called Privilege, which would have been incensing a year ago, but is now just a holdover from last year's thrill ride. The exclusive places (like Hudson Lounge) are spreading out towards the Kirby area, so who knows, there may be a new party to report on soon.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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