In the past two years, Houston has seen a surge in its speakeasies, with new hotspots opening around the city like Norigami’s origami-decorated hidden bar, the 30-minute omakase restaurant Sushi by Hidden, the movie theater-themed restaurant Juliet, and most recently, the membership-only James Now, a new speakeasy that’s steeped in music history has opened Downtown.
Located at 416 Main Street (the former location of Bovine & Barley), Off the Record is a new city haunt that doubles as a listening lounge with a lineup of resident DJs.
Tucked behind a charming record store, getting inside Off the Record might be tricky. Bargoers must take note of possible clues to get to the back bar, passing the “Employees Only” sign and a curtain, where another “On Air” sign awaits, leading them to the back mixology room, says co-owner and partner David Anderson III. Suddenly, bargoers will find themselves “in the mix,” with a lounge replete with crushed velvet couches and booths, a 41-foot wraparound bar, and a decorative wall ornate with 30 gold records with top-selling albums from artists and groups like Nirvana, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Pink Floyd.
Music will also be infused into the drinks. Alongside classic cocktails, beer, wine, and seltzers, George’s will also offer music-themed concoctions, including a Rolling Stone, made with Grey Goose strawberry and lemongrass vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon, and mint; Say My Name, an ode to the Destiny’s Child’s song, that’s made with rosemary-infused gin, chamomile, and lemon, and a Smooth Criminal cocktail, a combination of Thai chili-infused gin, pickled okra, and dry vermouth.
Upstairs delivers a different treat — behind the DJ booth features George’s Music Room, a telling of music history that pays homage to Anderson’s uncle, George Daniels, with photos of him with famous artists, including Beyonce, Erykah Badu, Scarface, Santana, Lenny Kravitz, Shaq, Usher, and George Clinton. The owner of Chicago’s iconic, albeit shuttered, George’s Music Room was a music industry executive who reportedly helped kickstart the careers of several musicians. Though he was born in New York, George also had roots in Houston, where he lived with his grandmother and worked at her restaurant Mama Alice’s Cafe in Fifth Ward.
Anderson, who owns art and entertainment company the Heist Agency, says his uncle took back some of his work ethic learned in Houston to Chicago, where he began enthralled in the music scene, hosting block parties for hip-hop and R&B musicians that helped break their albums, including hip-hop entrepreneur Diddy and Houston-born female music group Destiny’s Child. Daniels opened his record store, George’s Music Room, in 1969, which became one of the largest independent record stores in the Midwest.
Anderson says he teamed up with other people in the hospitality industry, including Steve Rogers of the Warwick, Jason Lowery from Bovine & Barley, and social media entrepreneur Mikos Adams in hopes of creating a nightlife spot with a story to tell, one that was similar to the creative places they enjoyed going to in other cities. Noting that vinyl is still a popular pastime and hobby for people, Anderson said the group decided to open the record shop-themed speakeasy that would also celebrate his uncle George.
“What better way to pay homage and give him his flowers while he’s still here,” Anderson says.
Anderson says Off the Record’s fully operating record shop plans to feature pop-ups and partnerships with a new local record store each quarter, allowing the stores to use Off the Record as a satellite location to sell vinyl records and host events. The speakeasy will also offer themed nights, including Motown Mondays, ‘80s Tuesdays, Latin and Reggae Wednesdays, and ‘90s on Wax Thursdays, with a lineup of DJs, including local talents like Gracie Chaves, Good Grief, and Beat Sicarios.
Off the Record will open daily from 5 p.m. until late. 416 Main Street, 77002.