The interior of Varsity Tavern, which opened on New Year's Eve.

The interior of Varsity Tavern, which opened on New Year's Eve.

Courtesy photo

Revelers of Fort Worth's West 7th Street district may notice a few newcomers to the bar-hopping scene, including a huge sports bar, a club that plays non-stop old school hip-hop and, soon, a spot for late-night pizza.

After searching for locations in Dallas, Houston and Austin, entrepreneurs Josh Reagan, James Hoffman and Micah McDonald settled on West 7th as home for four new and particularly unique concepts. A year and $4.5 million later, they opened two (sports bar Varsity Tavern and hip-hop joint Funky Sound) with hopes of finishing the others (pizza place The American Pub and night club El Capitan) by the spring.

"Real estate, when it comes to bars and restaurants, is the most important thing," Reagan says. These concepts will bolster West 7th's bar scene, adds McDonald, since they aren't already represented.

Hoffman is a hospitality vet with nearly two decades of experience in the industry, while for Reagan and McDonald, these new ventures will be their first foray into ownership. So why open four businesses simultaneously? The short answer: Go big or go home.

Varsity Tavern alone was a $2 million project, says Reagan. "If we're going to spend a lot of money and invest in Fort Worth, we're investing in the area ... essentially competing against ourselves," he says.

Let's take a look at each one:

Varsity Tavern (now open)

Varsity Tavern

Once you walk into Varsity Tavern, the owners hope you don't ever want to leave. That's why the bar and restaurant, with a massive 8,000 square feet across two stories, seemingly has a split personality.

Located in a refurbished auto body shop, the bottom floor is all sports all the time. There are plenty of TVs for game watching, including a jumbotron composed of several 90-inch flat screens and section of sideline bleachers for those who really want to feel part of the action. Walk outside through the 13-foot garage doors and you'll be in what Reagan calls "the playground," a dog-friendly patio area with giant Jenga, corn hole, ping pong and ladder golf.

Upstairs, patrons will find more of an upscale lounge vibe, Reagan says, complete with fire pits, a cocktail program and private event spaces for rent.

Food service here is quick -- just grab and go from a cafeteria-style line featuring Philly cheese steaks and other ballpark items like popcorn and nachos.

"We didn't want to open just another bar," Reagan says. "We wanted it to where you can have a really fun experience ... we don't want [people] to walk anywhere else."

Funky Sound (now open)

Say you do need a change of scenery, Reagan, Hoffman and McDonald acquired the property next door to Varsity Tavern and converted it into a hip-hop-focused club in hopes you won't go too far.

DJs will play exclusively old school hip-hop, the owners promise. They enlisted local artist Jerod Davies to cover the walls in murals of the genre's legends, like Missy Elliot and Notorious B.I.G., as well as other musicians like Willie Nelson -- "people who are 'funky' and go against the grain in their music," Reagan says. 

Davies overlaid the murals with fluorescent black light paint, so when the lights go down, walls light up.

"I go places and I hear old school hip-hop, but I don't feel old school hip-hop," Reagan says. "When you come to Funky Sound, you hear it and you look around and you feel it."

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The American Pub (expected opening by February)

T.A.P., as it's colloquially called, will serve pizza until 4 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You read right: 4 o'clock in the morning.

This is one concept McDonald believes Fort Worth is truly missing -- after-hours pizza is a staple among bar scenes in Austin and New York, he says.

The 'za will be New York style and the venue itself will have a dine-in area as well as a walk-up window for passersby. Reagan hopes to eventually offer delivery. Until that happens, T.A.P. promises a full bar with drink service until 2 a.m.

El Capitan (expected opening this spring)

The owners hope to bring a Vegas-style party to Fort Worth with this concept. Details are limited, but El Capitan will be a small nightclub with a target open date this spring.

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