Marfreless, iconic Houston lounge in River Oaks, to close its doors after 40 years

March 22, 2013 8:14:20 PM PDT
The closure of an iconic Houston nightclub has a lot of its patron reminiscing. But the reason for the closure is now a point of contention, with two sides telling two different stories.

We're talking about the Marfreless Lounge hidden in the River Oaks Shopping Center.

People have been pouring into the bar ever since they heard it was closing, but the owner says he has no choice.

If you don't know where you're going, you might miss it. But step inside the iconic blue door and you'll find a secret world, where the lights are dim and the drinks are flowing. This is Marfreless.

"OK it was a make out bar, OK," patron William Galbraith said.

"It's a landmark -- 40 years. I mean how many bars have been open that long in Houston?" patron James Glassman said.

"There's nothing else like it," patron Emily Standish said.

But this Houston institution is closing next Saturday.

"As it was explained to me, if you only make $50,000 a year, you can't live in River Oaks," owner Michael Wells said.

Wells says the bar's landlord, Weingarten Realty, has been raising rent every year, and this year's increase was just too much for the already struggling bar.

"It's north of $9,000 a month," he said.

Weingarten says it's still open to renewing the bar's lease. The company released a statement that reads in part:

"Weingarten Realty worked to renew the lease with Marfreless and offered a short term renewal, including a month to month lease opportunity.... Weingarten Realty has made several attempts to contact the tenant to continue discussions but we have not been able to get a response..."

"I'm going to be reaching out to them soon and hoping, but unfortunately at this late date, there's gotta be some big changes," Wells said. "This is valuable real estate, without a doubt. But again, like I keep pointing out, this is a closet in the back."

Wells says he's checking on other locations right now so it's possible the bar may just move to a new spot.

In the meantime, he is selling anything at the bar, including furniture and artwork.

The bar closes Saturday.

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