After 17 years, club closes doors to make way for development
The Brick shut its doors for the last time Sunday, Aug. 2, and with it goes a legacy of circuit parties, tea dances and hip-hop nights. After 17 years, the property changed ownership as development in the area increased, thanks to the rebirth of the old Parkland Hospital down the street.
While The Brick is gone it will not soon be forgotten, as it left a significant mark on the gay clubbing scene. But although the Maple Avenue location has already closed its doors for good, management is already planning a comeback.
"The Brick is not closing; we just don’t have a location and we’re trying to look for the right venue," says general manager Camille Lamour.
Lamour has been with The Brick for almost as long as it has operated, starting out as a barback working up to management. The reality of the closing is now sinking in, as a result of events this week.
"We had a White Party Saturday night and had about 650 people. A lot of people who hadn’t been out came out. It was kind of bittersweet. I’ve done my crying but it’s time to move on," he says.
The Brick took its final bow Aug. 2 with a reunion party featuring DJs from the club’s roster back in the ’90s, including Blaine Soileau, Mark Brack and Dallas’ Paul Kraft. It was Kraft who pulled the party together quickly.
"We had less than two weeks to promote it, but the party went really well," Kraft says.
The reunion was a tea dance starting at 5 p.m. and according to Lamour, by 5:30, a crowd had already begun — proof that The Brick stood for something in the Dallas club scene.
For a club on the outskirts of the Cedar Springs drag, it successfully positioned itself as a major player for circuit parties. With that came notoriety for a burgeoning crystal meth culture as well as blatant promiscuity within the club.
"Circuit was popular for a long time. In the ’90s, people exhaled from the AIDS crisis and partied really hard. That’s when we started seeing the three-day weekend party. But meth just decimated the dance community," Kraft says.
Lamour agrees and saw that the problem phased itself out but the club was left without a crowd. "We were this big leather bar with fabulous circuit parties but the crowd got older and the drugs ran out. People moved on," Lamour says.
Beginning as a Levi-and-leather club, The Brick filled its calendar with parties. Special events developed into weekly circuit soirees with DJ Troy Sands usually helming the turntables and people filling the dance floor. The bar and the infamous-but-short-lived dark room, a sliver of a hallway sans light, were never without a crowd.
After suffering through an identity crisis, The Brick reinvented itself earlier this decade with hip-hop on Saturday nights, a move that pushed the club to newfound success. The African-American community responded and filled the club on weekends, when it was the only club offering a hip-hop night for gays.
"They have a really loyal hip-hop following on Saturday nights. They pull in hundreds of people every weekend," Kraft says.
But he sees the dance community changing.
"It hit the skids two or three years ago. A lot of younger gay guys don’t understand how important dancing is to gay culture. So much has changed in our community and it’s harder to keep clubs like that. Gays now go to mainstream clubs while straights come in more to gay clubs," he says.
But Kraft forgot about all that on Sunday as he came full circle that night in his DJ career.
"There were lots of smiles, tears and crying. It was hard stepping into the booth. It was emotional to be at the place that got me started into dance music. I was honored by that," he says, welling up while recalling the night. His last song for the dance floor was Whitney Houston’s "I Learned from the Best," perhaps in homage to the DJs who manned the tables years before.
For his part, Lamour is already looking forward.
"That building was so old, we needed a new club. Every week something was wrong. We’re gonna get a bigger and better place and still have hip-hop, circuit parties and even private parties," he says, seeing the open window as these doors close.
WHAT ABOUT JOE’S PLACE?
The Brick’s general manager Camille Lamour has vented that in all the attention, no one has been talking about Joe’s Place, the small bar named after Jugs founder Joe Elliott, attached to the club. "It was a different crowd. It was more of a neighborhood bar. People would come in, eat popcorn and nuts, watch a game. It was very relaxed," he says.
Weekly cookouts and Wii tournaments gave Joe’s it’s own identity. But its regular patrons are feeling their own loss. "People are sad. They just want to know now where the new place is going to be. In the meantime, they may just find another place. We hope they’ll come back though," Lamour says.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 7, 2009.