Neon Boots, Texas' Biggest Country LGBT Bar, is Open for Business
When I ventured out to Neon Boots on Saturday, August 24, I was ready for a crowd, but I wasn't quite anticipating what I found.
Photos by Alyssa Dupree.
As I made my way down Hempstead, it was suddenly apparent that Neon Boots was not only a huge success, but the biggest bar opening I've ever been to.
People were seen crossing the street to get to the bar much like crowds do on a Saturday night on Washington Ave. And really, that's almost where it felt like I was as I pulled up to see cars lining either side of Hempstead Hwy. between 34th and Antoine (a nearly one mile stretch of road) with more patrons finding places to park on side streets.
It turns out that an estimated 2,300 patrons filed in and out of the club on Saturday, trying to catch a glimpse of what Neon Boots was all about.
"We were set up to accommodate about 1,000," said Justin Galloway, Neon Boots' Office Manager and Public Relations spokesman. "But luckily we've gotten so much mainstream press that the line to get in the door was backed up to Hempstead."
The bar was packed full on Saturday night and when Neon Boots' staff took to their Facebook page on Sunday to apologize, nobody seemed to have any complaints for what seemed like understandable, minor details.
Among the things they promised to fix? Adding fans, beer tubs and extra bartenders in order to better handle the masses that flocked to their bar. But if the biggest issue on opening night was that Neon Boots had bigger crowds than anticipated, it seems like they've already made a name for themselves.
When I returned on Sunday evening, things had simmered down to a decent-sized crowd.
Neon Boots opened its doors inside the same historical building that was once known as the Esquire Ballroom, a place where country legends like Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline got their start in music. It was also the first known country bar where an African American musician performed, when Faron Young threatened to pull out of his performance if his touring support, Charley Pride, wasn't kept on the bill.
Needless to say, the ballroom left some big boots to fill when it closed its doors in 1995. And throughout the years, others have tried and failed to turn it into a quinceañera hall, a gay tejano bar and a boxing venue. But Neon Boots was made to carry the torch, with its title as both Houston's largest LGBT bar, as well as Texas' biggest country LGBT bar.
Lucky for me, I was only halfway through my whiskey cocktail before I was asked to dance by a charming woman named Debbie Diane.
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