Owner says he’ll reopen Sisters Club in Fort Worth after being bought out by Trammell Crow

Sisters Club back patio

On Thursday I received a call from Kevin Barnett, the owner of the now-closed Sisters Club on Maple Avenue. Rumor had it the place was closed due to flooding issues, but Barnett says that’s not true.

“We were bought out. In fact, the whole block has been bought out by Trammell Crow,” he said.

By block, he means everything from his location to Herrera’s restaurant, and it’s all expected to be razed at the beginning of next year. No telling what other business owners think, but Barnett said he never felt slighted or wronged.

“They were very generous,” he said. “We were aware this was eventually going to happen, just not this soon. But they bought us out of our lease. “

Barnett said he never got a vibe that there was anything anti-gay about the process and said it was all a business move by Crow to expand and develop Maple Avenue to co-exist with the company’s headquarters at Maple and Oak Lawn avenues. And even though he opened the club eight months ago, Barnett has no regrets about what happened. Instead, he sees it as a blessing in disguise.

“I have no regrets about anything and I learned a lot,” he said. “We love the community here, but one of our biggest mistakes was to take a dead horse and bring it back to life. People wouldn’t let that Buddies II reputation go. That didn’t let us have our own identity.”

Barnett had the option of operating until November, but it sounds like he was ready to move on. He shut down the shop, packed everything and began making his move. With the same vibe, but different name, he’ll reopen the club in Fort Worth to take advantage of the newly thriving LGBT community there — and to establish an identity of his own.

“I’m excited to see growth in Dallas, and I think Trammell Crow will improve Maple Avenue,” he said. “But Dallas is overpopulated with bars, and Fort Worth is not. We’d get a brand new start and create our own reputation. We looked at buildings in Dallas but found a place in Fort Worth. We’re planning to open definitely this year.”

According to Barnett, the only thing Trammell Crow asked was to keep it on the down-low until the details were ironed out. With people asking him what was going on with the club when he shut the doors, Barnett had to create a diversion. This led to those plumbing rumors.

“I had to say something when people kept asking, so I just said that we had some flooding issues,” Barnett said. “It was silly but people kept talking and I was trying to not say anything. It bought me some time and so that’s why I’m calling now. But in the end, we’re not scorned by any means and financially, we came out OK. Everything was done like it should have been.”

—  Rich Lopez

Illusions is now closed, and owner Eddie Bonner is still blaming the city of Dallas’ smoking ban

Patrons inside Illusions before the city’s new smoking ban took effect in 2009. (Dallas Voice)

Illusions on Maple Avenue closed Thursday, July 15 after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the bar’s liquor license for failure to pay taxes on mixed-beverage receipts.

Illusions owner Eddie Bonner told me Tuesday afternoon he’s in the process of selling the six-year-old bar. But he said the buyer has been delayed in obtaining a liquor license from TABC.

Bonner said he wanted to keep the bar open until the new owner could take over but wasn’t able to do so. He said he planned to use proceeds from the sale of equipment to pay off his taxes.

Bonner has made news over the last few years for his strong opposition to Dallas’ new smoking ordinance, which he claimed had reduced his business by about 40 percent.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that’s the only factor, but it was probably the biggest contributing factor,” Bonner said, adding that he also has a full-time job and is working on his doctorate. “We’ve raised probably over $150,000 for charities, and I’ve made a lot of good friends, but the business side of it, with everything else I have going on in my personal life, it’s too much responsibility.”

Illusions is the second gay or lesbian bar to close in the last month on Maple Avenue.

DV staffer Rich Lopez reports that Sisters, which replaced Buddies II last year, closed its doors about two weeks ago. Rumor has it that Sisters was shut down due to “flooding issues,” but phone calls to owner Kevin Barnett haven’t been returned.

—  John Wright