After Midnight Rodeo, a dance hall located on East Ben White Boulevard, closed suddenly on May 23, the building’s owner, Rosemary Follis, plans to bring back her dance hall.
Midnight Rodeo has been in Austin since 1999 but closed unexpectedly last spring.
Carolyn Taylor, resident manager of AA storage @ Ben White, which is located close to the location, said she is glad to see it gone. During the time the dance hall has been gone, Taylor said she hasn’t had to deal with some of the past problems.
“When [Midnight Rodeo] was open, drunks use to throw their beer bottles on my property and scamper across it at night,” Taylor said. “[The managers] did not contain their parking lot.”
Taylor said she spoke with the owner about the issue but nothing was accomplished.
Follis, owner of the building since 1990, said she bought the property after 84 Lumber Company moved because she always wanted to have a dance hall in South Austin.
“Growing up, I always loved to dance,” Follis said. “There were a couple of places in North Austin to go to but nothing was closer in South Austin. Those two things pushed me to buy the property.”
Follis said she ran Dance Across Texas before getting rid of it and leasing the space to other companies. In 1999, she said she started renting to Midnight Rodeo until the company moved out without giving Follis any notice.
“[Midnight Rodeo] always paid rent on time, but I don’t know why they moved,” Follis said. “The first phone call I received about leasing the building was odd, and I told the person Midnight Rodeo was there. It was weird because I received several more calls and workers started showing up asking what happened.”
When she saw the condition of the place, Follis said it made her sick. Midnight Rodeo took everything but one kitchen sink. Plumbing, copper wiring, ice machines and air conditioning parts were taken. Follis said the ceiling in the men’s and women’s restrooms and the upstairs office had collapsed.
The dance floor and stage had puddles of water that had leaked from the air conditioners above. Follis said she found this upsetting because the stage had been used for performances by singers such as Marty Robbins and Elvis Presley when it was previously used at the Crestview Lumber Company. In 1991, the film “Wild Texas Wind,” starring Dolly Parton and Gary Busey, was filmed at the location before the dance hall opened.
“They claimed the reason for leaving was because of a leaking roof and the owner wouldn’t do anything about it,” Follis said. “There was no communication and no cooperation between us. Any problems could have been fixed if they just talked with me.”
Mark Easterling, marketing director for Associated Club Management, said Midnight Rodeo was trying to find an Austin location but the market is tough.
“[Midnight Rodeo] is looking for a new location in South Austin,” Easterling said. “Right now, it has been difficult because it is not a buyer’s market right now.”
Follis said the dance hall, renamed Dance Across Texas, will open Thursday evening for college night. They plan to be open from Wednesday to Sunday but will see how it goes before adding Tuesdays, Follis said.
Follis said she and the staff for Dance Across Texas have been working to open sooner because they do not want to lose their liquor or parking licenses. When the dance hall opened in 1991, Follis said it had the proper zoning permit for liquor sales but got away with inadequate parking because the license was “grandfathered.” However, Follis said they have worked to open before losing both licenses.
“If the building is vacant for 90 days, we would lose the ability to sell liquor and the ‘grandfather’ on our parking,” Follis said.
Lance Zenkner, manager for Dance Across Texas, said he previously worked for the company in the 1990s. Zekner said he believes the group can rectify their mistakes from long ago and make it a special place again.
“There are many of [us] here that were young when we worked here in the ’90s,” Zenkner said. “Back then, we learned a lot of things, but we also made mistakes. This time, we have a better understanding of what to expect to make this a success. We want this place to be more than four walls and a bar.”