Restaurants

Something big is going to stop beating at Toyota Music Factory (update No. 2)

Billy Bob Barnett's vision for Big Beat Dallas, a multi-restaurant/entertainment venue at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving, began about a decade ago. He announced Tuesday via Facebook that the venue is closing after two months.
Billy Bob Barnett's vision for Big Beat Dallas, a multi-restaurant/entertainment venue at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving, began about a decade ago. He announced Tuesday via Facebook that the venue is closing after two months. Courtesy of Big Beat Dallas

Two months after it opened to much fanfare, Big Beat Dallas, a five-restaurant/bar complex at Toyota Music Factory, is shutting down, its owner announced Tuesday on Facebook.

"Operations will cease, effective as of 12 AM this evening, 5/29/18. You will receive instructions ... with regards to pay, benefits, etc.," Billy Bob Barnett says in the post, which appears to be a reproduction of a memo to employees.

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Billy Bob Barnett's Facebook post Tuesday. Via Twitter

The post blames multiple factors, including parking problems and difficulty operating an outdoor plaza connected to the restaurant "as a result of landlord interference." (UPDATE: Not long after we published this, the Facebook post was deleted.)

UPDATE No. 2: In a statement, Toyota Music Factory confirmed that Big Beat Dallas is closing but added that it will have no effect on the rest of the complex.

"We are disappointed to learn that Billy Bob Barnett and his team have decided to close their concept,” Noah Lazes, president of ARK Group and developer of Toyota Music Factory, said in the statement. “The concept Barnett built is high-quality and well-designed. Unfortunately, even the most successful entertainment districts can have tenant turnover.”

The statement adds that ARK Group is hopeful that Big Beat Dallas and the lease guarantor, Restaurants Unlimited, will work out a plan to resume operations. Barnett's memo does leave the door open for renewing "operations in a more business conducive environment sometime in the very near future."

William Wilson, who had been a talent-support specialist at Big Beat Dallas — he was in charge of taking care of bands from the moment they got on the property to the moment they left — said in a phone conversation that all employees with a Big Beat Dallas email had received that memo earlier in the day, before it was posted on Facebook.

"From my understanding, we were all laid off, both on the production side, the entertainment side, and on the server/restaurant side," Wilson said. "Just two months after we opened."

Of the 25 restaurants at Toyota Music Factory, Big Beat Dallas was five of them: Bar Manzanilla, a taqueria and tequila bar; Highway 61 South, a blues club that offers burgers and barbecue; Texas Jam House and Marketplace, a 24-hour Southern kitchen; Martini Ranch, a Vegas-style cocktail lounge; and Texas C-Bar, a large wine bar that also has a global scotch menu, a cigar lounge and, yes, food.

All five venues look out on Texas Lottery Plaza, where there's an outdoor stage for acts that aren't necessarily at the level where they'd perform at the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory, the concert venue that anchors the complex.

Wilson praised the venue's talent director, David Pippin, for the acts he brought in to play at the plaza: Papa Mali, a "swamp music" artist form Louisiana; Tim Reynolds, the Dave Matthews Band lead guitarist, who concluded a tour with his own band, TR3, at Big Beat Dallas; 19-year-old blues guitarist Ally Venable, who played the venue three times.

"There were always tons of families, it was a really family-friendly environment," Wilson says. "Staff was great, we got a lot of great feedback from the bands and the artists themselves, like they'd never seen that level of hospitality in music venues. It was a real positive environment that, personally, I believed in."

Marketing for the development tended to focus on the restaurant side, however, without pushing the music aspect as hard as it could.

"There wasn't a lot of effort put into getting people to come out and see bands performing for free that usually sell out 1,000-to-1,500-person venues if not more," Wilson says. "Tim Reynolds, the guy has been part of Dave Matthews Band for [nearly] 30 years. When there's 40 people outside, you kinda wonder what could've been done differently."

Barnett is the Billy Bob in Billy Bob's Texas, "The World's Largest Honky Tonk," although he has not been involved with the Fort Worth venue since 1988.

Big Beat Dallas' concept was designed so that you can move from one venue to another, taking your drinks with you if you want. Its late-March opening was covered by local TV as well as digital and print media.

ARK not only reiterated that Big Beat Dallas' effect has no effect on the rest of the development, but added that it is growing and that a few new tenants are either open or opening soon. They include the recently opened Nosh & Bottle Market, a gourmet food market with wines and craft beers; Kitchen 101, a fast-casual restaurant; and Violet Room, "an immersive dining experience" that practically makes dining sound like a concert itself: "A large stage will be the focal point, offering a brilliant display of sight, sound, texture and experience with a wide range of entertainment events."

“Concerts, restaurants and movies at Toyota Music Factory have been doing quite well and business at the project has been strong,” Lazes said in the statement. “Given that we have already received numerous calls from other strong restaurant operators inquiring about the space, we are confident that it will be activated again in short order."

Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams ripped a fan who wouldn't stop taking flash pictures during his show Wednesday night at Toyota Music Factory.

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