Changes Are Coming To Hailey's Club in Denton as Dusty's Bar & Grill Owner Takes Over
To the layperson, last Wednesday appeared to be just another night at Hailey's Club in Denton. The venue was open, the bar was staffed and, for the most part, things seemed to be running along, business as usual.
The staff at the venue, however, was well aware that there was more going on behind the scenes. Earlier in the day, the ownership of Hailey's had changed hands: Out was the crew that had managed and operated the space since the '00s; in was a new owner, Jennifer Gibbs.
“I have acquired it from the old owners,” Gibbs confirms by phone this afternoon. “The previous owners are gone.”
Previous owners at Hailey's have not yet responded to requests for comment.
Gibbs, 35, is no stranger to the Denton bar scene. Since 2001, she's owned and operated Hailey's Club's next-door neighbor, Dusty's Bar & Grill. And, a couple years ago, after noticing that things weren't running as smoothly at her neighboring establishment as they once were, she mentioned to that space's landlord that she'd be interested in taking over the place should the opportunity arise. On Wednesday, she got her wish and completed a transaction naming her as the new owner at Hailey's.
Now, with Gibbs in charge, changes are indeed coming to the Dallas Observer's 2004 pick for Best Live Music Venue in the region — and some faster than others.
Gibbs' first action? Cleaning the bar and re-arranging the space behind it to allow for quicker service.
“I'm a bartender first,” Gibbs says. “I want to re-set up the bar for speed.”
Her second action? Re-opening a long-sealed door that once connected Dusty's with the bar space at Hailey's, allowing for inter-mingling among the two establishments' crowds, which will operate henceforth under different names, but under the same business banner. Her third move? Taking down some of the curtains that sectioned off the bar room from the space's main venue room, so as to “open up” the venue.
“Every day, we go in and do something else,” Gibbs says. “It's a slow process, and I don't have unlimited funds. But, as we go, we are daily cleaning, sorting, rewiring and painting. I'm not going to make any huge changes, layout-wise. But I want it to have a natural flow.”
Another likely change coming: A new name for the space. Gibbs says she is “95 percent sure” that a new one is coming — because, although Gibbs says she has yet to settle on a new one just yet, she acknowledges that a re-branding effort is imperative to drawing crowds back out to the room.
“In the past couple of years, [Hailey's] had a lot of reputation problems and just a negative energy,” Gibbs says. “Here's why I didn't go into Hailey's a lot before: I never knew what I was going to get. There was no consistency. Probably the only night I would ever go to was '90s Night.”
To that end, Gibbs has already begun talks with former '90s Night promoter DJ Yeahdef, who left his post as the head of that party after disagreements with previous owners, about coming back and again taking the helm of a night in the space.
The man behind the the DJ Yeahdef moniker, Joey Liechty, confirms that: “She seems like the right fit,” he says.
It's easy to see why Yeahdef is excited, too.
“I want there to be a party every night,” Gibbs says, noting that Fridays and Saturdays will likely remain designated for live music for the foreseeable future, and that the rest of the week will center around themed events.
The high number of beer taps behind the bar will remain in place, too, Gibbs confirms. But, whereas Hailey's once maintained 52 taps behind its bar before such craft beer-inclined establishments as Oak Street Drafthouse and East Side Social Club opened recently in the neighborhood surrounding Denton's Courthouse-on-the-Square, Gibbs' new space will likely feature about half that many.
Rather than a brewpub, Gibbs says she anticipates her space becoming more of a dance club.
“I do plan to keep it a venue of sorts,” she says. “But we're going more club-like, with less live music. Because Denton doesn't have a great dance club at the moment.”
Gibbs' taking over of the Hailey's space also means changes for Dusty's, too. The added room, Gibbs says, will allow Dusty's to expand its kitchen, install a walk-in, and grow its food offerings.
And, any truly massive, sweeping changes coming Hailey's way are still at least a couple weeks off, Gibbs says. With the 10th annual Hailey's Halloween party just a few weeks off, Gibbs has acquiesced to staff requests that the venue's name not change until that benchmark affair has come and gone.
Still, Gibbs' excitement at the changes coming to her new space is evident even in the tone of her voice as she discusses the possibilities.
“We'll create some consistency and get enough going that the reputation will be changed,” she says. “It's going to be awesome.”
Cover photo by Jeremy Hughes.