No sections. No bottle service. No hierarchy. Just dancing. This is the ethos of Paradise Palace, the new social club in East Downtown that redefines Houston’s club culture. Located in the building that once housed LA-based arcade bar EightyTwo, the new club boasts a vibrant aesthetic that fuses classical elements of ancient Greece with South Beach Miami. It welcomed thousands of patrons across two weekends back in late July and has continued to find success by introducing new and under-recognized music genres to the city’s nightlife scene.
“The reception we’ve received from Houston has been heartwarming. We love the crowds that have been coming through. Everyone’s been open to dancing. It’s been cool,” says Cole Evans, who worked together with Brian Almaraz and Andreas Hernandez-Garza to design and open the club. Sitting cozily inside the club ahead of its grand opening weekend, we talked through their humble beginnings as bartenders to their journeys as Renaissance men.
The three have collaborated for several years and established a hefty and transformative imprint in Austin’s nightlife with their beloved Coconut Club, Neon Grotto, and Cuatro Gato, each an individual club/bar concept that was conceived between 2018 and now. With the help of their strong team on the homefront and all the right contacts onsite, the team was well prepared to take on a new frontier.
“We felt like there were people here that were searching for something different, “says Hernandez-Garza, who handles international logistics and facilitating design with a team of talented, hardcore neon specialists. Hernandez-Garza also runs point on fabrication; Almaraz assures that their creative and operational input overlap.
Paradise Palace’s most striking quality is its maximalist aesthetic. Every detail results from a collaborative effort, from the intentional mixing of saturated colors to the structures throughout the interior. The club’s facade was the first way the three collaborators made their statement. In place of a dusty, contraction banner, they worked quickly to mount the boldly colored neon installation on the exterior while continuing to flesh out the inside. The second most important quality? The dance floor. It’s something most clubs/bars have replaced with individual sections that cater to more private versus communal party experiences. At The Palace, a.ka. Paradise for short), nobody should feel excluded.
“I think we all love riffing off each other’s ideas. It’s a really fun process,” says Almaraz, whose experience as a disco and house DJ has deeply impacted his vision as a club and bar owner. The goal of each of their clubs has always been to reach as many people in the city as possible through music and to create something that feels like “it existed in the future, the past, and right now.”
Its third most important quality is the club’s mission to support the careers of local DJs championing lesser-known music genres. The club isn’t genre specific, but with the help of open format DJ Morgan Morgan handling the bookings, it’s defining itself as a place where sounds of all diasporas can merge and stay alive. Paradise Palace joins several smaller but significant spaces for dance music like The Flat, Numbers Night Club, Cherry, and others who have catered to house, new wave, punk, and disco music. “In order for these styles to progress and grow, you need to have venues where you can proliferate and experiment with the sound,” Evans says about the role of Paradise in the current revolution in popular music. “But also, when you provide an economic model where you can sustain the incomes and livelihoods of people who produce and play the music, the sound can survive.”