Change. Some campaign on it, creatures of habit can’t stand the thought of it. For Lee Beekly, owner of Revolution Room, change was necessary.
Beekly, who also owns Taco Garage and Rebar, decided to do a 180 with Rev Room.
“A year, year and a half ago, it started going in a different direction that we wanted,” Beekly said. “I’m older now, I wanted something different.”
The catalyst for the upheaval? Constant police attention the Revolution Room received in the past two years.
This wasn’t always the case. Beekly first partnered with Greg Bickerstaff to open Revolution Room eight years ago after a would-be trip to Berlin turned into an extended stay in Prague. There, Beekly visited coffee shops, discotheques, grotto clubs and learned about the Velvet Revolution (the former Czechoslovakia’s non-violent protest that led to the collapse of Communism there).
The bar was a go-to for area college students looking to barhop between The Hangar, Rebar and Salud without heading downtown.
But now 48 years old and a family man, Beekly’s looking for a change of pace from the “Dance Party, USA” culture.
Sure, Beekly admits, fights happen. But the rowdy, rough-around-the-edges crowd garnered attention from WOAI this past February, which interviewed fed-up neighbors about the weekly parking lot brawls. The segment, followed by a particularly gnarly fisticuffs session amongst bar hoppers near Rev Room, led to Beekly taking down the establishment’s sign, changing the dress code and finding new deejays within days.
The bar is taking on a new moniker, Leon, after Beekly’s grandfather, a geologist born in 1883 who scoured South America and Europe surveying the land for oil and railroads on horseback and later Model Ts. Photos of Leon and his work buddies are scattered throughout the bar, along with new wooden panels, antique tables and wagon wheel light fixtures.
The lifelong restaurateur and bar owner isn’t going it alone. Beekly’s enlisted the help of new partner and longtime Taco Garage patron Joel Rivas to rebrand Leon into a rustic, Americana-tinged ice house/whiskey bar/beer garden.
“We wanted to build something that fits into the neighborhood,” Rivas said of the bar space they’re hoping to turn “from a menace into an asset.”
The upgrades have been slow and steady: The two-month old patio will eventually incorporate a 1955 Spartan trailer outfitted with some 18-plus draught beers. Already, the beer and booze selection is looking up with the addition of craft brews and local spirits. Although the grand opening isn’t slated until August 16, and Beekly often wonders if the venture will stick, he’s finding some peace of mind.
“Sales might have plummeted, but so did the police blotter,” he said.