Entertainers call the bar their favorite place to perform, credit Daugherty with launching careers
Alexandre’s owner Lee Daugherty said he was excited to have Anton Shaw hosting the festivities Saturday, Nov. 22, as they celebrate the Cedar Springs bar’s 10th anniversary.
“She’s been with me since we opened,” Daugherty said. And Shaw is not the only entertainer for whom Alexandre’s is special.
Since opening, Daugherty has helped nurture a lot of local talent, and many of the performers have gone on to bigger careers elsewhere. Saxophonist Rusty Johnson has moved to L.A. William Blake now performs in New York. And Liz Mikel still stops by for an evening when she’s in town. Her latest film, Get on Up, about James Brown, opened in August.
Johnson said he had a special place in his heart for Alexandre’s.
“For the 10 years that I’ve been playing and hosting shows at Alexandre’s, it’s been more than the packed crowds or the first time I made record sales,” Johnson said. “It’s been the legends I’ve become friends with, who have motivated and pushed me — Buddy Shanahan, Paul Allen, Anton Shaw, Liz Mikel, Zach Dillon, Peggy Honea, Lee Daugherty.”
If it weren’t for Alexandre’s, Johnson said he wouldn’t have achieved the success he enjoys today.
Daugherty opened the bar after a corporate career.
“I came from a successful run in telecom,” he said, an industry he described that industry as turbulent. “I put the money together and bailed out.”
So after bailing out of telecom, why open a bar?
“It was cheaper than paying my bar tabs,” he joked.
The name of the bar and its odd spelling speak to Alexandre’s humble beginnings. The bar previously in the location was called After Dark. It closed under a cloud and the new establishment would need a new name.
Daugherty said there’ve been all sorts of stories over the years about who “Alexandre” is. And every night, he notices the name Alexander pops up more often than any other name when he’s closing out bar tabs.
One of the most persistent stories is that the bar is named after Chris Bengston’s son, Alexander. Bengston has worked for Caven Enterprises, which operates several bars on Cedar Springs, for years.
Daugherty said the name was a result of trying to save some money at a time when he was scraping together the funds to open as economically as possible. He took down the After Dark sign and rearranged letters. Using as many of those letters as possible, he came up with Alexander’s.
But he couldn’t register a DBA in Texas with that spelling because it was already taken. The alternate spelling worked for incorporation purposes, and Daugherty saved about half the cost of putting up the sign.
Daugherty said his nightclub is “more high energy” than the old Bill’s Hideaway, which was a piano bar located on Buena Vista, off Fitzhugh. The Hideaway was more of a cabaret, Daugherty said, adding, “We veered away from the cabaret style.”
He called Alexandre’s a more interactive experience.
The bar doesn’t have just one style, either. Alexandre’s features blues, acoustic, R&B, bands and more. During the week, the entertainment may be more lounge and on the weekend more highmenergy. Daugherty said he schedules singers so that the energy builds from Wednesday through Saturday.
One source of new entertainment has been Voice of Pride.
“I make it a habit to bring them in,” he said. “Voice of Pride gets great local LGBT talent.”
He also hears from musicians from all over who find him on Facebook, so he can always offer a fresh flow of musicians.
Among the Voice of Pride winners is Mel Arizpe of Mi Diva Loca.
“Mi Diva Loca has been very fortunate to perform in such an intimate setting on the strip that has allowed us to be who we are without compromise,” Arizpe said.
She said Daugherty has given local talent the opportunity to showcase their work and establish and maintain the musical careers.
“It is definitely one of our favorite places to play,” she said.
Daugherty said he’s always trying to keep the place fresh. He’s done extensive remodeling this year including adding an outdoor patio.
He also has a new logo and, after 10 years, that sign he pillaged from the After Dark neon will be replaced as well.
Daugherty is also the only Cedar Springs bar owner who’s also a bartender, and he said he likes mixing classic cocktails featuring Texas spirits. And as a small business owner, he also likes showcasing the work of other small businesses, so he offers lagers from local micro-breweries and craft beers.
“It’s been a great 10 years where I’ve learned a hellova lot,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 21, 2014.