Chapman & Kirby partner Mazen Baltagi tells CultureMap that he and his business associates were excited about the buy-sell agreement they reached in December with the Company of Nomads, the growing hospitality group behind Bravery Chef Hall and a number of upcoming food halls. The space even operated as Prohibition for a couple of weeks before the coronavirus pandemic forced a temporary shutdown of both restaurants for dine-in service, and, critically, performance venues like Prohibition.
Once that happened, Baltagi says he had trouble reaching any of Prohibition’s partners, Anh Mai, Lian Pham, and Shepard Ross, to determine how they wanted to proceed.
“We didn’t hear one word from Anh, Shepard Ross, or Lian for six weeks,” Baltagi says. “[Meanwhile, the] landlord is charging us rent.”
Reached by CultureMap, Mai confirms the deal will not come to fruition. He cites the difficulty of operating a performance venue, especially one devoted to burlesque, at a time of social distancing. Without Prohibition to anchor the space, converting part of it into a new home for Conservatory, downtown’s original food hall, didn’t make sense either.
“Basically, we just backed out. The problem is we can’t really perform burlesque with Prohibition. We felt like it was something we need to hold off until things clear up,” he says.
Mai emphasized that the Company of Nomads intends to move forward with its other projects, which include the Railway Heights project, an outpost of Conservatory in the Galleria area, and an Asian-inspired hawker market in Midtown. Some of the downtown Conservatory’s former vendors are currently operating out of Bravery while those other projects move towards completion, but it come be some time before Prohibition’s Moonlight Dolls burlesque troupe returns to the stage.
“Burlesque takes humor and intellect. There’s interaction required to accomplish that. We felt like we can’t do it.”
Mai added that the Moonlight Dolls will have to pivot like other performers. They hope to announce more specific plans for the troupe soon.
The reborn Chapman & Kirby will offer a more casual experience than its initial iteration as a buzzy, luxurious nightclub and restaurant. Instead of the shareable items that previously anchored the dinner menu, the kitchen will focus on more casual fare like tacos, sandwiches, and salads.
With 15,000 square feet of interior space plus a patio, Chapman & Kirby is large enough that it can serve up to 200 people even at 25-percent occupancy, according to Baltagi. He and his partners are ready to do what they can to make up for the revenue they lost when the deal with Prohibition fell through.
“I’m doing what I do best, Eric,” Baltagi says. “I’m tying on my shoes. I’m gonna make shit happen.”
Chapman & Kirby; 2118 Lamar St.; Sunday - Thursday 5 - 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 pm - 12 am; 713-636-9615; Reservations recommended.