When the Roanoke location of ChopShop Live was announced near the beginning of 2017, it was called ChopShop Live with Randy Rogers, getting its name from the Cleburne-born Texas country singer who is involved in the sports bar/music club.
It's now Roanoke ChopShop Live, and Rogers will be there at its grand opening on Saturday. But aside from some online viewing, the first time he will see the place is the day before the grand opening.
"I haven't even seen it with my own eyes," says Rogers, who is now based in New Braunfels and hasn't been to Roanoke since the groundbreaking. "I've been on the road, so I haven't physically taken a tour. I've taken a virtual tour, like on FaceTime, seen it like that. But everyone that's seen it, they've been so impressed."
ChopShop already has a Carrollton location, but the Roanoke version, which actually opened last weekend, is much larger. It's 22,000 square feet, indoor and outdoor, with a large stage and a seating area that can be made to accommodate 250 to 1,200 people, depending on the popularity of the bands performing.
At the grand opening, Wade Bowen is scheduled to perform. Rogers is simply scheduled to appear at the grand opening, but don't rule out him getting onstage.
"I'm there all day," Rogers says. "I'm going to be part of the ribbon-cutting, and kind of the master of ceremonies. Probably if I have a couple of beers I'll end up onstage," he adds with a laugh.
Most of the bands scheduled the first couple of months are cover bands and tribute acts, albeit some really popular ones such as Le Freak and AC/DC tribute Back in Black, along with local favorites such as Dallas' Eleven Hundred Springs (scheduled for Aug. 11, days after they help open Texas Live! in Arlington). Rogers hopes to be able to bring in some even bigger-name acts down the road.
"There's going to be a little bit of a curve, because first of all, we have to prove ourselves," he says. "A lot of times, too — I'm a good example, I'm booked up through the entire year already. They'll be a lag in getting some of the touring bands that come from all over the state and other states into ChopShop Live, but I think it's a great way to have a live music venue that just services the local folks there in Roanoke. Sometimes you just want to go out and hear a cover band, and sometimes you want to hear a tribute band."
Rogers is in a partnership with Rock Libations, formed by restarauteurs Joshua Babb and Sean Clavir, whose restaurants include Musume in downtown Dallas, Shooters in Victory Park, and Prohibition Chicken in Lewisville.
"My goal, my vision, when I got on board with Josh and Sean was to give them direction in regards to the music," Rogers says. "One thing I didn't want to do is limit us as a Texas country venue. ... I don't think it should even be limited in genre of music. It's a stage where the community can use it as well, for community events [and] private parties."
It's as much (if no more) as sports bar as it is a music venue, and the predominant theme is NASCAR — except when the Dallas Cowboys are playing. Inside the Quonset Hut-style building, there are 18 TVs, including a Jumbotron that counts as half of them (it can show one event large, as it was doing with a Serena Williams match at Wimbledon during a Tuesday-morning walkthrough, or show events on nine screens, as it's likely to do during football season).
The idea is a sports-garage sports bar made out of car parts, according to Clavir, but the Cowboys take precedence over everything else. The Carrollton location has a car theme, too, but it's more fitting in Roanoke, roughly five miles away from Texas Motor Speedway via Texas 114.
The walls are decorated with auto hoods and other body parts, including a piece of a car driven by NASCAR star Kyle Busch, but the Cowboys also get their due, with jerseys from Jason Witten, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek among the items framed on the walls. The fender of a Corvette with a CHOPSHOP license plate butts out of a wall near the entry, and a Harley chopper stands in the center of the room. A NASCAR suite is outside near the stage, with more car parts, some of them provided by TMS.
Clavir says that the venue is designed so that if you just want to come and have dinner or drinks without paying attention to the bands, you can; but you can also hang out on the large outdoor patio, including a portion with seating at the bar. About 50 beers are available on tap and in cans and bottles, including offerings from North Texas breweries such as Fort Worth's Rahr & Sons Brewing and Granbury's Revolver Brewing Co.
Although the Carrollton location's menu has several items that extend the automotive theme (right down to a vegetarian burger called the Prius), the Roanoke location mostly steers clear of the car puns, although there is a burger called Randy's El Camino (it comes with candied jalapeño bacon on a potato bun, but shouldn't an El Camino be open-faced?) and another one called the Buick (a mushroom-Swiss with caramelized onions on toasted sourdough).
And then there's the "Hillbilly Meat board" appetizer sampler: fried chicken feet, charred Spam, pickled pigs feet, fried bologna, Cheez Whiz and oyster crackers. Most menu items are in the $8 to $14 range, with a couple of exceptions including an $18 chicken-fried rib eye.
Cocktails do carry the car theme: Lightning McQueen (Stoli orange with cranberry and Red Bull); Smoky and the Bandit (Angry Orchard Cider, 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey); Mustang Sally (Smirnoff sourberry lemon vodka, Sprite, cranberry). There's more, but you get the idea. There are also "Bomb Buckets" of boozy concoctions that serve two to four people.
Roanoke, already known for aggressively attracting restaurants, has seen a wave of openings within the past 12 months or so, almost all of them on the south end of the Oak Street strip where ChopShop Live is. Neighbors include Craft & Vine, the Wharf Steak & Seafood, sushi-and-more spot Foster's and Wise Guys pizzeria. Stacks Biscuit House is expected to open across the street before the end of summer, and Los Compadres Cantina is under construction nearby.
All that has made for some parking frustrations, but a free parking garage just opened, within walking distance of ChopShop and its closest neighbors.
Rogers, who is due to release his ninth studio album in the fall, tours practically nonstop; he and Bowen are embarking on their annual and wonderfully named "Hold My Beer and Watch This" tour, and he and his band with headline the Texas Summer Jam Presented by Whataburger with Randy Rogers and Friends (whew!) on Aug. 25 at the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving.
But he also does a lot more than perform: He is involved in music management, a couple of other music venues and the Cleburne Rail Roaders baseball team, among other projects.
"The music business itself is a tough one, it's a daunting business," he says. "I think that diversifying is key. I'm trying to create revenue streams that are going to be around to help support the family for a long time. Being a singer-songwriter, being a musician, using that platform to maybe start and create other businesses in the entertainment industry ... really, is my livelihood."
And it's entirely possible there will be more ChopShops.
"[In New Braunfels], I've been approached by developers that are doing mixed-use living, working, playing kind of environments, and that's an example of another great opportunity for us to put up a ChopShop." he says. "In the coming years, I think you will see more of our concept in different cities."
ChopShop Live is at 309 S. Oak St. in Roanoke, open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. For updates, visit http://www.chopshoplive.com or @chopshoplive on Facebook.