Iconic Dallas C&W saloon to mark 30 years with four-day celebration

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Round-Up Saloon
ANNIVERSARY | Country line-dancers take center stage as a typical Saturday crowd looks on at the Round-Up Saloon recently. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

The U.S. is at odds with Iran. The President, a Democrat, signed legislation to bail out the auto industry. Video games are the rage. Hurricane season threatens to pound Texas. A sci-fi movie kicks off the summer.

Things haven’t changed much since 1980.

Of course, the Democrat in the White House was Carter. The hurricane was Allen. Pac-Man was the height of computer-gaming sophistication. And the big movie — “The Empire Strikes Back” — was only the second “Star Wars” pic.

And in one little spot along Maple Avenue on July 11, the Round-Up Saloon was opening its doors.

Little did the gay community know that the new country and western club would be a staple in the scene for three decades. And counting.

Sunday marks 30 years of operation for the gay country bar. The celebration will begin July 15 with a four-day celebration.

In its current incarnation, the Round-Up is an ultra-modern club disguised as a traditional honkytonk. Since taking over in 1998, owners Alan Pierce and Gary Miller have kept up with the times, from accepting credit cards to adding a second-story patio, wifi and equal time on the floor for non-country dancers.

Alan Pierce and Gary Miller

HERE’S MUD IN YER EYE | Alan Pierce and Gary Miller, in a file photo, took over the Round-Up in 1998 but maintained it down-home country appeal.

And the national press has taken notice. Instinct named the Round-Up the “best galdanged gar bar in the U.S. of A,” citing its must-see status on the Strip. Even non-gay media have given it props: The Dallas Observer twice named it in its Best of Dallas issue and D has given it multiple kudos for its karaoke and dancefloor.

“I think we’re raising the mark on bar ownership,” Pierce told Instinct. “We work very hard to follow the law and keep the place clean, and we treat our employees and customers well.”

It’s little wonder. Dallas is in Texas, and the stereotype of the state is of boot-scootin’ cowboys. What may set it apart from most C&W gay bars elsewhere: The men you see two-steppin’ it on Saturday night may actually be working as cowboys come Monday morning.

It hasn’t been an easy road. In February 1989, a six-alarm fire from the neighboring Dallas Gay Alliance office destroyed the club save for some chandeliers and the front door. But the move to Cedar Springs established it as an anchor along the Strip. Once Miller and Pierce took over, they renovated with a tequila bar, an interior balcony, a covered patio and rebranded its front bar as the Parlor, popular for its nightly karaoke.

The club has also served the community, contributing to local charities — a fact not lost on Dallas Tavern Guild director Michael Doughman. “Gary and Alan are well deserving of the recognition they get and their support of local organizations, but it’s also hard earned,” he said. “It’s amazing when a bar of any kind can remain in business for that long. They do everything they can to keep their business in the spotlight and I think 30 years is very exciting.”

Prior to becoming the full-time DJ there, Roger Huffman was a patron. When he was hired to spin, he finally found what he was looking for.

“I am working my dream job right now,” he said. “Gary and Alan are the best employers I have ever had.”
Even after 30 years, the Round-Up prides itself as “home of good times and good people.”

For more on its 30th anniversary celebration, visit RoundUpSaloon.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.