Is Galveston's Strand a new club spot?

March 12, 2009 3:58:58 PM PDT
On the road to recovery, Galveston is showing signs of progress, but is it the type of progress people want to see? There have been a surge of new businesses opening along the historic Strand District, but they're not the traditional businesses people have come to expect. PHOTOS: See for yourself dozens of businesses open in Galveston
LIST: Galveston's extensive list of open businesses

Some wonder if the 'new' Strand will have more in common with Bourbon Street or Sixth Street, rather than a historic district.

John Glenn has big plans as the owner of Club Strand.

'I'm putting a 50 foot bar and then down at the other end I'm going to put a dance floor," he explained.

He's opening a bar on the Strand in a space that used to be an antique shop. It's a growing phenomenon. In the six months since Hurricane Ike, less than 40 percent of the businesses have reopened. But now, the city's planning committee is seeing a surge of requests to open bars and nightclubs.

Johnny Smecca with the Galveston Planning Commission said, "Do I think it will ever be a Sixth Street or a Bourbon Street? No, I don't think so. There's too much interest in the historic side of Galveston."

But could there be both? Across the street from Club Strand is another new bar called Crow's Cantina. The owner wants to create an entertainment district, keeping Galveston's historic character by day and offering more entertainment at night.

"I think they both complement each other, especially in resort towns where the cruise industry is," explained Allen Flores of Crow's Cantina Bar and Grill. "Although they're going to board the ship, people come in and have a few drinks in the daytime. Or if you're at the beach or conventions you can come in afterward."

We found a group of tourists doing just that. They're looking for a place to eat and have a few drinks before they board their cruise ship.

Tourist Brad Young said, "If bars will bring retail traffic then that's what they need too. But I don't know if bars alone will bring in retail traffic."

"I think it will be just fine as long as you keep the history of the buildings," said tourist Cindy Larmour.

Keeping the look of the historic Strand and the buildings that have been standing since the 1870s is the goal of Leslie Sommer, with the Historic Downtown Galveston Partnership. She says the historic cast iron storefronts will not change, no matter what's inside.

"I think in the conversations that we've been having that as we move more into late spring and summer, all those small businesses, quirky shops that people loved on the Strand, you'll see the re-emergence of those businesses alongside the entertainment businesses," Sommer explained.

Daytime and nighttime businesses surviving alongside each other with one the common goal, keeping Galveston's economic health above water. Several business owners and Galveston city officials have said they aren't worried about the Strand's look changing, saying the commitment to keep the look of the historic area is a priority.

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