Marfreless Returns, Sleeker and Swankier But Just as Sexy

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Photos by Marco Torres
Still plenty dark, huh?
"Hey, does anyone else smell that? It really smells like wood varnish in here!"

The well-heeled patrons are trickling into the crowded bar at a steady pace, and as they appear, one by one through the hostess area, they all exclaim the exact same thing: This bar smells strongly of varnish. They are right, though. The entire place does indeed smell of wood varnish.

We are at the soft re-opening for Marfreless, the hallowed River Oaks make-out bar, and not even the heavy perfume that settles like clouds amid that varnish scent can detract from it. That varnish smell is to be expected, though. After all, the contractors who are charged with remodeling the dark old bar, packed up and left only about an hour ago.

"The walls, they're red! Oh, and the old mural is still up!"

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SLIDESHOW: Inside the Renovated Marfreless


The folks scattered about the bar have overcome the scent of varnish and are now taking a group checklist of the renovations that have been made to the place over the past year, lending a strange, "I Spy" atmosphere to the night. As each new feature is spotted, from the white marble bar to the back-lit, stair-stepped stage for the liquor, the changes are met with collective approval. Check, check, and check.

Long after Marfreless closed its legendary blue door in March 2013, the rumblings about its resurrection remained. The first re-opening date was expected to be during the summer, but that came and went, as did the one slated for mid-January. Updates from the new, "silent" owners dropped sporadically on the bar's social-media channels, adding occasional fuel to the fire, but those tidbits came few and far between. Given the previous false alarms, we had to wonder -- at least at first -- if this opening, with its lack of public fanfare, wasn't also a false alarm as well.

But the bar is indeed open, and 100 or so patrons, dressed in cleavage-baring business attire or dark suits, are packed like fancy sardines against the bright red walls. They have come to experience the new Marfreless, and it is easy to spot the newcomers in the crowd. They are bright-eyed and awestruck, a handful of twentysomethings in their Sunday best. And the old-timers? Well, they're dressed to the nines and making out.

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Those regulars will have to wait if they intend to take their affections much further than quick pecks, however. The notorious upstairs -- Marfreless' lovers' paradise -- is not open yet, and it is too crowded for outward displays of affection in the downstairs space. The bar opened its doors this evening only to quell the pesky rumors of bottle service and doormen, leaving the upstairs in mid-renovation. The couple next to us is groping one other despite this, and nearly mistakes us for their other half in the process.

The dimly lit bar, tucked away out of sight, was pocked with the proof of its hushed past, and the mismatched, speakeasy vibe was relished by its patrons. The imperfections - vinyl couches, damaged by the high heels of eager lovers, and the carpet, worn threadbare - were Marfreless' badges of honor. When the new owners began to drop hints about an overhauled Marfreless on social media, their communiques exploded like bombs, leaving nothing but skepticism in their wake.


Story continues on the next page.


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Marfreless

2006 Peden, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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