Houston's oldest bar may have temporarily shuttered for most of 2015, but Midtown favorite Leon's Lounge is back with a new operator and a new look. Davenport owner Duane Bradley and his business partner Jim Defoyd, who leased the space from owner Scarlett Yarborough, reopened the bar in December.
Bradley tells CultureMap that he'd been looking for a space in Midtown for awhile. When Yarborough approached Defoyd about taking over Leon's, it felt like the right fit.
"I’ve always loved this space, because it’s one of the oldest and most iconic bars in Houston," Bradley says. "It’s a cool layout. You don’t see these kind of old buildings anymore. They mostly get torn down and new strip center spaces go up. It’s got a lot of character and atmosphere."
Overall, Bradley made only a few changes — the most notable being switching the men's and women's restrooms. In addition, the French doors that created a small room in the back have been removed to open up the space; in their place, the new operators installed a raised platform that serves as either a seating area or a stage depending on the night.
Structural improvements turned out to be fairly minor. Bradley read the reports that the space needed extensive repairs to its sewer system, but inspectors didn't detect any problems. In addition to some plumbing and electrical repairs, the bar has all-new air conditioning units.
Photographs of original owner Leon Yarborough, his wife, and the bar as it looked when Leon operated it adorn the walls. Taken together, the changes help Leon's live up to the "lounge" in its name and should provide a relaxed, slightly upscale atmosphere.
"We tried to pay as much homage to the original feel of the place and to Leon himself," Bradley says. He's also started to work with Outlaw Dave Productions on booking lounge acts for the stage. Kinda Super Disco has begun hosting Sunday night dance parties.
General manager John Dilan says the new Leon's doesn't offer a cocktail menu but instead focuses on serving classic drinks. The back bar features an extensive selection of American whiskeys. A special known as the Citywide offers a shot of Jameson or Fireball and a bottle of Lone Star for only $6. Just like at the Davenport, all drinks are doubles.
Bradley reports that so far the bar's regulars have liked the changes. They should appeal to Midtown partiers and residents, too. Hopefully, that means Houston's oldest bar will win a whole new generation of fans.