Buli now under new ownership

New owners say they plan to update the interior but keep the Buli name and format.


MOVING ON | After selling Bull Cafe, Scott Whittall plans to concentrate on the cattle business he owns with his partner. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Scott Whittall sold his Cedar Springs Road coffee shop, Buli, to new owners this week and will resign as president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

New owners Robert Clawson and Rob Auman are partners and plan to retain Buli’s format.

“These were two long-time, loyal customers who wanted to purchase Buli,” said Whittall. “They want to see it remain Buli.”

Last week, Clawson and Auman signed a lease with the property owner and Whittall got a release from his obligation for the store from the landlord. Sale of store assets should take place this week.

“In the beginning, we’re going to run it the same way,” Clawson said.

Over the next three to six months, Clawson said they would redesign and update some of the interior. He said that they plan to replace the bar top to give the shop a new look.

“But we’re going to continue to be Buli,” he said.

Whittall said they had talked about extending hours and some additions to the menu, but those changes would also not be immediate.

Dec. 1 is the planned takeover date, but Whittall will continue working at the café for several weeks after to help with the transition and to finish some planned events and catering jobs.

Earlier this year, Whittall tried to expand his business into a neighboring space formerly occupied by a hair salon. He applied for a liquor license but the city requires more parking for restaurants and bars than for retail and service businesses.

By doubling the space, Whittall would have had to provide four times as many parking spaces.

When he couldn’t secure the necessary extra parking, Whittall was released from his option for the additional space and withdrew his Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission application. He said he thought about reapplying for a TABC license and turning his original space into a piano bar.

During this time, Clawson and Auman told Whittall that they’d be interested in purchasing the café. Whittall told them at the time that it wasn’t for sale.

But Whittall and his partner also own a successful cattle business that has been growing rapidly lately. For eight years in a row their cows won the Houston Livestock Show.

But Whittall explained that they don’t ship meat or animals.

“It’s a genetics business,” he said. “We ship embryos and semen. We help them create their herds out of championship stock.”

Whittall is also president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association. He said he wants to see planned events through until the end of the year.

But Whittall said he would talk to the board at the CSMA meeting in December about who will lead the organization after he leaves.

On Dec. 2, the merchants group is hosting a fundraising event at The Rose Room. The evening includes a buffet dinner catered by Jim Lee Events and entertainment by Linda Petty, Victoria Weston and Rusty Johnson. Tickets are $75.

Money raised will be used to hire a security guard on the east side of Cedar Springs Road. Caven Enterprises currently pays for a security on the west side of the street where that company’s bars are located.

Even though he’s leaving, Whittall said he is passionate about the continued success and safety of business in the area and encouraged people to come to the event to support the neighborhood.

“The event will be an elegant, white-linen dinner,” he said. “The Rose Room will be decorated as you’ve never seen it before.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Bellying up to the bar: Leatherman Payne and partner dive into club ownership with Eagle

MEN OF DENIM | Ostmeyer, Payne, Johnson, Frazier and Roy now all own the Dallas Eagle.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Until about a month ago, everything Jeffrey Payne knew about a bar was how to order a Sprite in one (Payne doesn’t drink). Maybe how to cruise a guy during happy hour. That was it.

That’s changing. Fast.

At the end of January, Payne and his partner David Roy became shareholders in the Dallas Eagle.

“David and I have been speaking about it for a few years. We toyed with starting our own bar, had looked at other bars that had come up for sale in the meantime but never found what we were looking for,” Payne says.

Then last year Mark Frazier, one of the owners of the Eagle, approached them. “He heard we were looking,” Payne says, and asked if they would be interested in investing. Things progressed fairly quickly from there.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Payne says. ”Working with Mark and Cully Johnson and Jerry Ostmeyer, who are the other owners, we all bring something different to the table. We’re all active. There’s no silent partner, no one standing on the sidelines. Lot of changes have either happened or are about to happen. The DJ booth is now against the side; new countertops are being put in; and we have an updated draft [beer] system.”

Payne’s history with the Eagle is notable. He was named Mr. Dallas Eagle in 2008 — the first step on his way to Mr. Texas Leather and finally International Mr. Leather, a title he held from May 2009 to 2010 and for which he received widespread acclaim throughout the community for his leadership.

“Having been around the world like I have been, getting to know the hugely supportive gay community — not just the leather community — I wanted to be more involved,” he says. “The Eagle was just the right thing we were looking for. It’s a Levi/leather bar, but it doesn’t stop there: The bears, the court, the drag queens, softball teams, the bowling league — it’s not limited to just one sector of the community. It’s a wide array of people. Even straight people who are involved in the gay community hold activities there.”

“Bar owner” joins Payne’s other job titles of late, which also include running a court reporting service and serving on his non-profit Sharon St. Cyr Foundation, which raises money for hearing aids and sign interpretation for the deaf community. Payne is going deaf, although it has not progressed as fast as his doctors had predicted.

“It has gradually gotten worse but I’ll hang on to every day I can,” he says. ”Understanding is escaping more and more. David said something to me this morning and what I heard and what he said were on two different planes. Mine was much funnier.”

His hearing impairment also figures into his work at the Eagle — in some not-to-predictable ways.

“Sunday was the first time I worked behind the bar,” he says. “When I’m at the Eagle I don’t wear my hearing aids so people were placing orders and I didn’t hear them.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Project one-gay

Dallas hairstylist and fashionista Gregg Asher has an unforgettable look. But he’s turning his eye on the rest of Dallas with a new fashion blog

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

FASHION FORWARD  | If you had Gregg Asher’s closet, you might not come out of it either. Although as a man who wears gold Bottega Veneta high-heeled boots, it’s hard to stay in. (Photo by Steven Lindsey)

T­here are people who, when they walk into a crowded room, turn heads.

And then there’s Gregg Asher, who’s probably responsible for more cases of socialite whiplash than anyone else in Dallas.

Along with partner David Martin, Asher infuses the see-and-be-party-scenes with a heavy dose of high glamour through attention-grabbing personal style. Laden with designer brands from toe to head (he builds his outfits from the shoes up), it’s not just who he’s wearing, but what he’s wearing. If there are two signature items in a Gregg Asher ensemble, it’s gorgeous high-heel shoes and amazing handbags.

But, he stresses, he’s not doing drag. Or cross-dressing. His is a style that transcends traditional labels — while piling on plenty of couture ones.

Perhaps surprisingly, his fashion fierceness partly stemmed from pure necessity. He wears a size 5½ men’s shoe and weighs less than most female supermodels. Shopping off-the-rack in the men’s department was not an option. The boys’ section, maybe. But Asher in Garanimals? Just. Not. Right.

“My waist size — they don’t even make pants my size. So I need to either go to Asia to go shopping — and I don’t have time for that — or it’s easier for me to go buy something for women at Barneys or Neiman’s or J. Crew. Whatever it is that suits me.”

It all comes down to what he thinks is beautiful, no matter where it’s found in-store.

“I don’t wear dresses. I don’t want to be a woman. I have more of a beard than straight burly men in the sticks could ever grow,” he says. “But when you find something that you enjoy wearing, or doing, it makes you feel better about yourself. It doesn’t have to be a dollar-and-cents thing; it just has to make you happy.”

Asher’s soothing, soft voice is in stark contrast to his outward extravagance and sharp humor. When a man walks into a room wearing Burberry Prorsum platform buckle boots and a Jean-Paul Gaultier scoop-neck sweater, chances are most people would expect some obnoxious queen with an affected attitude matched with a horsey cackle. But nothing could be further from the truth for Asher. At any Dallas party, he’s probably the kindest, most approachable person in the room. It’s just his wardrobe that’s intimidating.

When we meet at his swanky Turtle Creek high-rise, he answers the door in a green cashmere turtleneck and flared tan corduroys by Balenciaga, a green-blue-yellow tree-print jacket from Tuleh and burgundy suede Fendi platforms. You know: typical Sunday afternoon casual. At least in the Asher manse.

Italian couture is a far cry from Jonesboro, Ark., where Asher grew up. But he learned early on to embrace his individuality, ultimately turning it into a successful career as hairstylist to some of Dallas’ highest profile citizen (among his clients: the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders), as well as a trendsetter and fashion icon in his own right.

His enthusiasm for style led Asher into his latest venture, a blog called FashionBaggage.com. As a regular at New York Fashion Week and runway shows all over the world, the fashion part comes easy. It’s the technology that was a little iffy for him.

“I didn’t even have a computer until, like, two months,” he says. “Even in high school when they offered computer class my senior year, I was like, ‘Oh no, I’d rather take home ec.’” He laughs, knowing that’s even funnier since neither he nor Martin cook.

ONLINE IN STYLE | Asher barely knew how to turn on a computer until he started the blog FashionBaggage.com

Asher posts entries at least every other day, offering up witty commentary on current trends, revealing his latest purchases, playing dress-up with Martin and snapping candid pictures of the fashion dos-and-don’ts he encounters around town; he says spotting an Hermes Kelly bag on someone at the State Fair of Texas restored his fashion faith in humanity.

“We can all read Vogue, and sometimes it’s over your head. I always felt like I was a laughed-at personality in the community, so why not write all that down and let others be entertained by it,” he says. Then he reveals his more strategic side: “Ultimately I’m working and branding myself into the TV market, so it’s just one more step in the process and adding more variety to the things that I already can do.”

Asher is currently working with three different production companies on a variety of ideas, though he admits his appeal is more niche, making it easier to work a story around him than fit him into some reality-show mold. Although that’s not to say that he wouldn’t consider a role on Logo’s The A-List: Dallas.

“I’m not hunky enough and I definitely won’t be taking off my shirt for any of that, but I have enough drama and excitement in my life to add something to that show,” he says.

“I think there’s a stereotypical version of what a gay man is and I don’t fall under that. I almost embody what a lot of people find that they’re embarrassed about the gay community or what they think the gay community gets a bad rap for,” Asher says. “And I think I elevate the community just as much as anybody else does, I just do it in a different way.”



You don’t need to read up on back issues of Vogue to have insight into where style is headed — just listen to Gregg Asher’s recommendations about what you can do to spruce up your wardrobe:

I love heels (obviously) and think women should definitely wear them — they elongate the silhouette and make anyone’s legs look better. I love Fendi shoes because their heel heights are almost teetering on too high (though a heel can never be too high). One of my favorite shoes for guys for this fall/winter is the entire collection from Rick Owens who shows platform wedges. Yes, it’s probably way too avant-garde for most men, but it’s super sexy and totally masculine when worn with the right clothing. And there’s nothing greater in fashion than someone who is totally confident — and these boots demand that!

Trends that I’m seeing for guys for spring are lots of denim. In fact, when I was at Fashion Week, it seems denim is everywhere (for guys and girls), but this is not your everyday, regular old pair of jeans — it’s been treated and cut into modern silhouettes and shapes, and the denim is used for all pieces and has great details (even laser cut lace pieces of this fabric look new and fresh).

Another trend would be for men to definitely retire the super skinny pants that show off your stuff. For spring, show off a new change in trousers. What I’m seeing in high fashion that will eventually trickle down to more mainstream venues is wider leg pants and pleats. One of my favorite collections showing this for spring is Raf Simons who presented a beautiful super wide leg, extremely long pant in crisp white or black. It has so much drape and pleating, it almost looked gathered and wrapped around the body and waist. He even showed it with sleeveless shirts and vests to almost give a summer suit effect.

Overly styled hair is a don’t for me. We’re not living in a pageant, no one is perfect, and sometimes minor imperfections are your best strengths.

Buy clean underwear. Union Jack is a great place for a large selection in any cut and color. Women change their bras continuously, so men should change their underpants regularly in terms of styles — make sure the style goes with your outfit by not giving you panty lines. That means sometimes you have to change the style of the underwear to go with the style and cut of the pants you’re wearing. There’s nothing worse than a man in ill-fitting undies. My mother always told me, to make sure you always have on clean underwear before you go out just in case there was an accident and you have to go to the hospital. Words to live by!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens