July 27th, 2009

Union Bar and Lounge: Canucks Amok

In 8 Words: Patio, Candelabras, Canucks, Caterpillar, Dance-offs, Molson, Stand, Sit

Just as you pass the concentration of bars and apartment buildings in Midtown going South along Bagby another springs up, a final player enters the game. The party at Union Bar and Lounge is impossible to miss on your left-hand side as you cross Dennis. The festivities are right up against the street, drinking, talking and dancing on the fenced in patio, red velvet leading the way to the entrance.

We head toward midtown on a Thursday night, looking to celebrate the last night of freedom for a friend who would be returning back to the night shift. Having a couple friends at Union makes it an easy bar to choose, but it’s also been a place that I’ve wanted to return to having only been there once, many months ago.

We arrive late, the clock pushes on to midnight as we finally find parking on Brazos near the Spec’s. Wondering what might still be found on a “school night” we make the dark, block walk from car to red velvet gateway. Our IDs are diligently checked by the bouncer at the door before allowing us entry. At the entrance waits a woman sitting at a folding table with a cash box and tickets. Upon what, exactly have we stumbled?

Groups of people stand and chat, spread out among the largess of the patio. The tables pushed up against the fence allow the smattering of people free reign. We pass up a cash bar outside to venture indoors for booze by way of credit card. Music comes from every angle once inside, familiar tunes, a mixture of 90’s hip hop and 80’s dance music along with a few current favorites. The dance floor which envelopes most of the indoors is  populated by both college-aged grinders and mid-40s toe-tappers. A strange party we have crashed, indeed.

A Heineken and Budweiser are delivered to us over a low-set, wooden bar quickly by the girl waiting on us. We are impressed by the special being offered: $5 Molson long-necks. If only they were offering Labatt as well. Drinks in hand we take a lap around the bar in an attempt to get a better look at the crowd and find friends we know are lurking somewhere on the grounds.

Chandeliers equipped with candles hang from the rafters, stripper poles run from floor to ceiling, a cushioned bench lines each of the main walls and small cocktail tables are scattered here and there. A poster advertising a raffle for Houston Aeros gear, stands on an easel. Are we at a Aeros promotion? A quick glance around reveals something we’ve missed, Canadian flags jutting out from black, plastic cups on the smallish tables. The Molson special, hockey paraphernalia… it all clicks.

We find our party outside under the covered portion of the patio, fans blowing the humid Houston air making it a bit more comfortable. Our conversations are completely outshone by the people watching available. Canadian night or not, this seems to be a theme for Union carried over from my first brief visit. Retiring back inside we are blessed with more of the same.

A set of guys, all clad in vibrant ties, dancing with a couple of girls take a few steps back in unison. The girls follow suit. We are well aware of what is happening, the famed dance-off. The man in the yellow tie steals the show, “breaks off” his partner (if you will indulge me) and slithers to the ground to make an attempt at the caterpillar which ends up looking more like a baby seal. But, for all intents and purposes, we must declare him the winner.

The lights fade down and brighten back up, we are at the end of our night. I tell my friend to close out my tab and I set off for the bathroom. It’s at the corner of the building down a shallow hallway. The doors are labeled “stand” and “sit”, amusing. They are a perfect end to the discoveries of a surprising night at Union. I tip the bartenders and head for the door.

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Where – Midtown (2408 Bagby, Houston, Texas 77006) View Map
What – Midtown’s Largest Bar Patio
Wear – Velvet Rope = Possible Dress Code
Who – Midtowner, Outtatowners, Uptowners
How Much – A Median Price That Isn’t Quite Nice
When – 4:00PM-2:00AM Every Day
Webhttp://www.myspace.com/unionlounge

[Note: We had a tough time deciding on whether or not to publish our experience at Union Bar and Lounge because of some issues that arose in the last couple months. But, with the GLBT Caucus and Union Bar Management addressing those and coming to an understanding, we feel confident in publishing (facebook group).]

— Paul

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