Friday, May 6, 2011

Chances Bar

Chances Bar

Location: 1102 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas, USA

Opened: August 1994

Closed: November 2010

Here's what an anonymous reviewer from girlsports said about Chances:

Who ever would have thought it possible that one of the biggest lesbian bars in the world would be found in Houston, Texas?  Not me.  Chances says it is the biggest on the planet, but I’d have to compare with Candy Bar in London or Le Drugstore in Montreal to see if that's true.  No matter what, you’ll find tons of girls here.  Chances is actually made up of four separate bars, each catering to a different crowd: the original Chances bar for a drink and some music; Chance’s G-Spot for the dancing; New Barn Saloon for all you country/western fans and the Chi-Chi Martini bar for sophisticated ladies.

Well at any rate, the four-lesbian-bars-in one concept sure beats Portland's old Egyptian Club, which marketed itself as three-lesbian-bars-in-one. (The Egyptian Club is also featured here at Lost Womyn's Space.)

Like many lesbian bars, however, it wasn't all about beer and good times. There was also a commitment to the local community. As another commenter notes:

You walk into Chances, and the first thing you notice are the multicolored streamers--hundreds of them--hanging cheerfully from the ceiling. The colors vary with the season, but they always give the place a feeling of carefree happiness. The bar has been the host of many benefits and fund-raisers (it's raised half a million dollars for AIDS and breast-cancer research) and is an active supporter of the Montrose Women's Clinic.

Other charities that Chances had supported over the years included Assisthers, Human Rights Campaign, and Legacy Community Health Services.

But like a lot of things, the quality changed over time. Starting around 2008, we see a growing number of customer complaints about the "rude staff" and the "punks that work the door or bartend." Or the "lil gangstas crowd" or "trash" or "scammers" that were populating the place.

In July 2010, the Houston Press confirmed that the owners of Chances had put the building up for sale. As part-time owner Anne Vastakis explained, "It's a very hard decision, and it makes me sad to even talk about it. We have been running it for 15-16 years and loved it, but the last four years -- let's just say business has not been getting stronger. With the economy the way it is -- these mega-lesbian bars -- there are four bars there, and in the `90s they were thriving. Now, I don't know, maybe there's too much competition."

And then, it was over. As the Houston Press announced on November 19, 2010, Chances was finally handing in its spurs:

Montrose nightlife staple Chances is shutting down this weekend, according to owner Nick Vastakis.

Vatakis' family has owned the space since it was Charlie's Coffee Shop in the '70s, but his family is moving out of bar management and into property development, he told Rocks Off in a quick phone interview Friday afternoon.

"Chances lasted a lot longer than we though it would. It's been a great time," Vastakis said.

Chances has been a popular hangout for almost 16 years for Montrose's gay and lesbian community, becoming a hub of activity during holidays and especially Gay Pride weekend festivities.

"It's a natural evolution for us all in the family. I was spear-fishing with my 12-year-old son in Greece and he said, 'You know Dad, we never get to just hang out. You are always at the bar working,' and so we decided to change the direction of our business plan," Vastakis said.

A fire in April of 2006 sidelined Chances, but it soon bounced back with a remodel. As noted by Rocks Off's sister blog Hair Balls, the Vastakis family put the property on the market in July.

As for the new tenants, Vastakis says that they just recently signed a deal with a group that will turn it into a high-end restaurant, with a superstar chef that they are keeping under wraps for now.

"It's going to blow Montrose out," Vastakis said. "It's going to be great."

Vastakis added that there will be a closing bash for Chances this Saturday night before the hotspot closes its doors for good. The marquee will also go out with a bang he said, with the message:

"Thanks for the mammaries"

Godspeed, Chances.

One thing is for certain. Even though it's now gone, Chances still has its loyal fans. It's the only former lesbian bar--at least the only one I have found--that has its own tribute site on the Internet.

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