For country music, it's the Dallas Bull
Small but widely known, the Brandon club hopes its new home will be large enough for its huge crowds and big names.
By JAY CRIDLIN
Published November 4, 2005
BRANDON - When you're Brad Paisley - that is, when you're a celebrity - you can launch a new album wherever you want. Tower Records in New York, Spago in Beverly Hills, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Take your pick.
So where did the country superstar ask to debut his recent CD Time Well Wasted?
Brandon. At the Dallas Bull. With an intimate acoustic show for 700 fans.
"It was a no-brainer for us," said Lewis Surratt Jr., the Bull's co-owner and president. "We had people waiting in line at 6 o'clock in the morning."
It should come as no surprise. Fans are as loyal to the 26-year-old Bull as they are to singers like Tim McGraw and Gretchen Wilson.
But the club has outgrown its two dance rooms. Surratt and his partners are building a new club a few miles down the road, at U.S. 301 and Sabal Industrial Boulevard.
The monolithic, barnlike structure will triple the old one's capacity and nearly quadruple its usable floor space, making it one of the Southeast's largest country nightclubs when it opens in February. It'll include a package store, wester n wear shop, banquet room and bigger stage, complete with a spacious lounge and dressing room with a private shower.
Total cost: more than $5-million.
"It's grown a little bit from what it started as," Surratt says. "But I still wonder from time to time: Is it big enough?"
Considering the horde of fans in line outside the Brad Paisley party, maybe not. On busy nights at the Dallas Bull, cars line U.S. 301 for hundreds of feet in both directions. Hotties in tight jeans and cowboy hats pack the club's two dance floors, swiveling in unison like twin schools of fish to country, techno, hip-hop and swing.
"It's a really nice crowd out here," Laura Collins, 36, of Brandon said during a recent Ladies Night at the Bull. "The bartenders are nice, the DJs are good, the bouncers are nice."
Brooks&Dunn, Big&Rich and Rascal Flatts have all played the Dallas Bull in recent years. Surratt thinks the area is ready for a permanent midsized country venue for artists who might not sell out the Ford Amphitheatre or the St. Pete Times Forum but could pack a club that seats 2,200.
The prospect of bigger concerts has forced the Bull's owners to push the new club's opening from November to February, partly because noise concerns have been heightened during a legal battle involving residents living near the Ford Amphitheatre.
"We've had to put up a wall to separate us from Veterans Memorial Park, which is closed when we're open," Surratt said. "But they don't want the sound carrying over."
Weather and zoning issues also have delayed the three-year project, as have tighter fire code regulations following a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people during a Great White concert in Rhode Island.
But the Bull's owners are doggedly targeting a grand opening in February, which Surratt hopes will make "a big splash," probably involving a headlining concert.
"We'll call it country music's Field of Dreams, I guess," he says with a laugh. "If you build it, they will come."
Jay Cridlin can be reached at 727 893-8336 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified November 3, 2005, 08:48:08]
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