The landmark Oak Lawn bar has played a prominent role as LGBT community meeting place
Alan Pierce said one of the things he loves to hear most is when couples tell him they met at the Round-Up Saloon.
The Cedar Springs bar has not only been a place for people to meet each other, but also a place to celebrate.
Most recently, the bar was packed on the Monday after the marriage equality decision day, when Jim Obergefell, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide, appeared with Human Right Campaign President Chad Griffin to both celebrate the victory and warn Texas county clerks they’d be held responsible for doing their jobs.
After her election in 2002, Mayor Laura Miller went to the Round-Up to thank the LGBT community for its support. Stonewall Democrats watched election returns on big screens hung over the dance floor when President Barack Obama was re-elected. Elected officials — both gay and straight — made the Round-Up a stop on their tour of Democratic parties.
Pierce and his husband, Gary Miller, have owned the bar since 1998. And Pierce said they don’t shy away from taking political stands. They are also proud to be part of the LGBT community’s achievements politically, socially and, most recently, in the courts.
This weekend, the Round-Up celebrates its 35th anniversary.
The celebration includes a cash balloon drop on Saturday and a barbecue dinner with cake and champagne on Sunday. Chaz Marie performed earlier in the week to kick off the celebration.
The bar opened in the late 1970s as Magnolia Thunder Pussy. After some management turnover, the bar changed format to country-western and became the Round-Up Saloon in July 1980.
Miller worked for original owner Tom Sweeney as back office manager. After long-time manager Tom Davis died of complications of AIDS, Miller became manager in 1987. When Sweeney retired, Miller and Pierce were the natural choice to buy the bar and continue the tradition.
He was manager of the bar when it relocated to Maple Avenue for more than a year after a 1989 fire destroyed most of the businesses on that side of the street.
Pierce said he’s proud of the stand he took on the Dallas anti-smoking ordinance. While most bar owners around the city opposed banning smoking in bars, Pierce spoke at City Council in favor of the ban.
“Gary and I are non-smokers,” Pierce said. “I supported that strongly and Mayor Leppert appreciated that coming from the owner of a large bar.”
Pierce said he was concerned about his employees’ health as well as his own, and knew many of his customers preferred the bar smoke-free. Then, the Round-Up became the first bar in the city to build a smoker’s patio.
“The night it [the smoking ban] went into effect, we had a party,” Pierce said. “Business was up 40 percent that night.”
Pierce talked recently about how much times have changed. Early in the bar’s history, it was still illegal for men to dance together. He said during a police raid, people just sat down on the dance floor and defied the ordinance.
But the Round-Up has always been a great place to dance and has gained a national reputation for just that reason. When Willie Nelson needed a set for his “Secret Cowboys” video, he chose the Round-Up and some of the bar’s best dancers. Burt Reynolds also appeared in the video.
Probably the most famous appearances at the Round-Up have been those of Lady Gaga. She credits the bar with giving her one of her first breaks, and the superstar hasn’t forgotten Pierce and Miller.
Pierce said in 2008, when Lady Gaga was just starting out, he got a call that a young performer wanted to appear in some gay clubs. He agreed to host her.
“She rehearsed a couple of days with a couple of dancers,” he said.
She performed just two songs, one of them was “Just Dance.”
“Word got out on the street and we had a huge crowd,” Pierce said.
In 2010, she appeared at American Airlines Center as part of her first national tour. She shouted out greetings from the stage to her friends from the Round-Up and said, “I might just go out tonight,” but never said where she’d be going specifically.
After the concert, a motorcade came down Cedar Springs Road.
“You’d have thought it was the president,” Pierce said.
Pierce said Gaga entered the club, bringing her mother and sister with her. They stayed an hour or two.
She returned on other trips to Dallas with all of her dancers. Pierce said she had absolutely no demands other than asking them to keep the dance floor clear while she performed “Born This Way.”
He said she mingled with the crowd.
“She’s just a really nice lady,” he said.
A rumor got out that the Round-Up had paid Lady Gaga to appear, but Pierce laughed and said they could never afford her price.
Remembering back to the first phone call from her publicist in 2008, he said it was a good thing he answered the phone and not Miller. At the time, Miller said he would have turned her down since her music wasn’t country.
For more information about The Round-Up Saloon and its 35th anniversary celebration, visit RoundUpSaloon.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 10, 2015.