Updated throughout with comments from Big Beat Dallas' landlord and Billy Bob Barnett's lawyer.
Big Beat Dallas, a multi-venue complex at Irving's Toyota Music Factory, has closed after eight weeks in business.
On Tuesday, a note to employees was posted on Big Beat Dallas' official Facebook page saying the complex's attorneys advised operators to "discontinue our business operations as a result of the inability to operate with any efficiency due to the lack of parking efficiencies, the inability to operate the plaza as a result of landlord interference, and other material factors affecting our business." The post, which has since been removed, said Big Beat Dallas would cease operations effective at midnight on May 29. (See it in full below.)
The note was signed by co-owner Billy Bob Barnett, whose name is famously a part of Billy Bob's Texas honky-tonk in Fort Worth — though he is no longer affiliated with the venue.
"Under a series of unfortunate circumstances beyond Big Beat's control, Big Beat was forced to shut down today," said Larry Friedman of Friedman and Feiger, Barnett's lawyer.
Those circumstances refer to a number of promises that were never delivered upon, Friedman said, such as the number of designated parking spaces for Big Beat Dallas.
Big Beat Dallas opened this spring in the long-awaited Toyota Music Factory, a development that includes a new music venue operated by Live Nation and dozens of restaurants and bars. Big Beat was comprised of five original bar and restaurant concepts, each with a focus on live music. The venue revolved around an outdoor stage known as the Texas Lottery Plaza, which hosted free concerts on Monday nights.
David Pippin, talent director for Big Beat Dallas, confirmed to GuideLive he received the note about the closure Tuesday at 11 a.m. His Big Beat email address has since been shut down, he says.
In a Guide cover story on May 11, our music critic Kelly Dearmore lauded Big Beat for its variety, though noted the outdoor venue was still figuring out what worked. Featured talent like Tim Reynolds and Jonathan Tyler were exceptional, he said, but the concerts could be "depressingly empty, with only a dozen or so attendees."
Josh Smith, co-founder and co-owner of Banjos to Beats promotion company, said attendance improved with each show he booked there, but only after he decided to start marketing them in-house.
"About two weeks into officially opening, they fired their entire marketing staff," Smith said. He is now looking for new venues to host the Original Wailers, a band scheduled to play Big Beat Dallas on June 15.
Pippin, who was one of several hundred employees at Big Beat Dallas, said he's unsure of the fate of other concerts already on the calendar there.
"We've got anywhere between 60 and 70 shows on the books now through October on multiple stages," Pippin said. "The locals, I'm going to call on good graces and have to cancel the bulk of them. The national acts that we've have coming through September are going to have to be addressed."
ARK Group was the developer of Toyota Music Factory and serves as landlord. Noah Lazes, president of ARK Group, said he was "surprised" by the Big Beat Dallas note and has not had any conflicts with the plaza venue or parking.
"We have 4,200 parking spots, we've never filled them up," Lazes said. "We have traffic and normal kind of things associated with an entertainment district. Traffic in most entertainment districts is a sign of success."
The other restaurants and bars at Toyota Music Factory remain open, Lazes confirmed.
Friedman, however, said ARK Group was notified "many times" of issues Big Beat Dallas had with its property and that they were never resolved. For example, he said ARK allotted Big Beat 1,500 designated parking spaces, but then gave 500 to another tenant. Friedman also claimed the Texas Lottery Plaza was supposed to be 50,000 square feet, almost twice the size it is today, he said.
"If the landlord was going to fulfill its promises, Big Beat would have stayed there, but there was no indication," Friedman said. When asked about the potential for legal action, Friedman said, "Big Beat Dallas is considering its options at this time."
Restaurants Unlimited, Big Beat's co-creator and ARK's lease guarantor, has not responded to phone calls about the closure.