Opening a bar during the best of times brings enough trials. Opening a bar during a pandemic? Well, that’s reserved for some brave souls. Locally, some persevered with pre-pandemic plans and took on the challenge, opening while juggling new restrictions with just a few hours’ notice and revamping business models to sell food when TABC required such. Here are six new bars you might have missed, all opened during the pandemic’s ugly wrath. (Don't forget your mask.)
After Hours Bar and Grill
Located in the former Barcadia space at 816 Matisse Dr. near West 7th Street, this brand new bar and grill just opened in late January. All of the former tenant’s vintage arcade games were replaced with seating for sports-viewing (fight nights are big here), cocktail-sipping, and some serious noshing — the food menu ranges from braised short ribs to the trendy birria street tacos. Then there’s the drink menu, categorized by cocktails, shots, frozen margaritas, and craft beer. The Texas Tea provides a local play on Long Island Iced Tea and is shaken with vodka, tequila, rum, triple sec, and gin. Or patrons can keep things simple with a tequila and Topo Chico Ranch Water. Add some heat with a splash of grapefruit juice and a spicy, salted rim.
This retro bowling alley that doubles as a bar and restaurant opened in November 2020 in the former Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. space at 901 W. Vickery Blvd. Lanes are old school, with buttoned vinyl booth seating and Brunswick pinsetters and up-ramp ball returners. There's also vintage arcade games, ping-pong, and darts. But the drink menu is anything but dated. Two refreshing options include All The Way, made with Tito’s, strawberry, and lemon topped with bubbly; and the Cazadores blackberry Paloma with grapefruit soda, limes, and a pinch of salt. Or try the Western Son vodka White Russian, or classic Balcones Rye Whiskey Old Fashioned. Happy hour (with specials on bowling prices, too) is Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 pm.
Disco meets artsy at this underground speakeasy located below The Tower in Sundance Square, at 350 West 5th St. Guests are greeted at street level by Zoltar, the mechanical fortune teller, before stepping downstairs for the action. Inside the whimsical space, a shrine of disco balls hangs over a spacious dancefloor flanked by long banquette seating and a DJ booth. The neon "Don't Dallas my Fort Worth" sign is sure to be an Instagram sensation. Because Curfew opened during the pandemic, the bar doubles as a pizza restaurant, as serving food was part of the requirements to operate during the bar shutdown. But most visit for the adventurous cocktails. The aptly-named Cigar Old Fashioned is compressed with tobacco smoke. The Caviar Martini comes with gin, vodka, and roe. Then there’s the Black Orchid, an anejo tequila concoction made black by squid ink. Happy hour is daily from 4 to 7 pm.
Just opened last month, Grapevine’s long-awaited Harvest Hall is anything but another trendy gourmet food court. Yes, there is an eclectic collection of local culinary concepts, but the venue is also home to not one, but two top-notch bar experiences. The expansive Harvest Hall Main Bar serves as the venue’s anchor featuring a long, sleek bar-top (which can seat up to 20) surrounded by tables and lounge areas. Cocktails are created with house-made mixers and fresh ingredients. Then there’s the Third Rail, a live music listening room within Harvest Hall with a large horseshoe-shaped bar featuring a railroad theme and industrial design. The Hall is connected to the new Hotel Vin, Autograph Collection – all part of Grapevine Main, a $114 multimillion mixed-use development in Grapevine.
Great Scott! A bar inspired by the 1980s classic movie Back to the Future and is worth a visit to west Fort Worth for its time-travel-themed vibe. McFly’s Pub, located a stone’s throw from the Naval Air Station’s entrance at 6104 Lt. Jg Barnett Road, caught the attention of Food & Wine magazine when it quietly opened in August 2020. With multiple murals paying tribute to key scenes from the blockbuster movie, the bar offers a retro 1950s theme complete with vinyl barstools and an exterior neon sign. References to the movie are many, including numerous clocks (as depicted in Back to the Future’s opening scene), a Marty McFly mannequin that sits on the roof, and cocktails named for key characters and phrases. Try the Gigawatt Shot shaken with blue Curacao, tequila, and rum; the Martini McFly, made like an Old Fashioned in a martini glass; or the Loraine, a tropical concoction named for Marty’s mom. There’s a jukebox, vintage arcade games, and a stage for live music. There’s also an expansive, pet-friendly patio — Einstein would approve.
The Magnolia Wine Bar
Marty and Marilyn Englander bought Kent & Co. wine bar in 2019, ready to revamp the concept with a fresh facelift and expansion. Then the pandemic hit, and delays followed. Now The Magnolia — the wine bar’s new name — has finally bloomed. With a magnolia flower logo and an exterior mural of cream-colored magnolias overlooking a pet-friendly patio and lawn space, the wine bar is fully rebranded with an expanded food menu (they’re partnering with nearby Carpenter’s Café & Catering), occasional live music, and a lengthy wine list. Guests can find unique varietals, like Italian Barbaresco and South African Sauvignon Blanc, or choose from staff picks listed on the menu. Non-wine drinkers will be glad to know there's beer on tap.