Owner says he is in no hurry and will hold out for a buyer who’ll keep the club gay




David Webb  |  Contributing Writer

GUN BARREL CITY — There’s been a gay bar on Cedar Creek Lake for two decades, and there always will be one, if Garlow’s owner Michael Slingerland can help it.

Slingerland listed his five-year-old nightclub for sale with Coldwell Banker American Dream Realty in Gun Barrel City a week ago. But there is no hurry to unload the property, he said. The bar owner said he plans to hold out for an LGBT buyer who will continue to operate it as a gay bar.

When asked what the odds were that it would continue to be a gay bar, Slingerland answered, “100 percent.”

“This is not a moonlight madness sale,” Slingerland said during an interview at the nightclub Sept. 16. “I’m not in a rush to sell it.”

The new owner would not have to continue with the Garlow’s name and theme, but they can if they want, Slinglerland said.

The nightclub’s motto is “Where friends become family,” and it hosts regular drag benefit shows that are attended by both LGBT and straight clientele. The shows frequently benefit Celebration on the Lake Church, a thriving LGBT church located a few miles down the road.

“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to continue with the same theme because it is successful,” Slingerland said. “We’ve been a success since the day we opened.”

That’s not the case with all nightclubs on the lake that have often struggled to stay open. Friends, another gay night club that operated for 15 years on the lake, closed because of slow business about three years ago.

New owners bought the building and transformed it into a straight nightclub. That club recently closed too, and the marquee’s neon sign now announces it is for sale or lease. Another straight nightclub down the road also closed recently.

“You have to make your profit during the spring and summer to get through the winter,” Slingerland said. “If you don’t make enough money before winter, you aren’t going to make it through the year.”

The bar owner said Garlow’s is “doing fine” financially, and it will be business as usual until a new owner steps up with an acceptable offer. “I want a lot for it,” he said.

Garlow’s will have an entry in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sunday, Sept. 21, and a “Toys for Tots” benefit featuring Linze Serrell and a “Bevy of Beauties” will be held the night before the parade — Saturday, Sept. 20 — at 9 p.m.

The asking price is $240,000 for the “cash-flowing bar” on Highway 334 near the intersection of Highway 198. The building is 2,500 square feet, and it sits on almost an acre of land, so there is plenty of room for parking.

In back, there is a landscaped courtyard with tables and chairs, lighting and a bar. Inside there are tables and chairs, pool tables, game machines, a dance floor, a stage and — of course — a big bar with bar stools. All of it will be sold as a package.

The nightclub and its patrons are well accepted by county and city officials, and everyone knows that Cedar Creek Lake has a large population of full-time and weekend LGBT residents, Slingerland said. Earlier in the year, a “rogue” police officer stopped residents as they left the parking lot. But complaints to city officials led to a promise there would be no more harassment, he said.

The mayor at the time, Paul Eaton, apologized to Slingerland and to the LGBT community in the local newspaper.

“The new mayor and his entourage came in not long ago,” Slingerland said. “He told me that he appreciates the business and our customers.”

Gun Barrel City operates mostly on sales tax income because it currently has no property tax. That means thriving businesses are essential to the city’s financial well-being.

Slingerland said he decided to sell the nightclub because he wants to do something different, like travel the world. “I’m not dying or anything,” he said. “I’ll turn 65 next year, and I just want to be free to do whatever I want.”

Slingerland said he plans to retain his residence in Gun Barrel City as home base, and he would probably visit the nightclub as a customer. “I love this bar,” he said.

Slingerland said that even though the bar was listed just a week ago, he has already had several inquiries about it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.