Arlington Music Hall
224 N. Center St.
Cary Moon thought the skinny lot at Center and Division streets in downtown Arlington looked ideal for the latest addition to his investment group’s string of beer, hot wings and music libation stations in Tarrant County. It would be an add-on to Trinity Tavern on Texas 360, Dalton’s Corner in Burleson and Keller Tavern in Keller.
Moon’s people called owner Burk Collins’ people, Collins owning not only the lot but the adjoining Arlington Music Hall and the leased-out Babe’s Chicken building. It turned out that Collins – a development investor and sometimes country-western musician — not only wanted to sell the lot, he’d welcome offers to buy it all.
Moon, 48, made the deal in 2015. And yes, he’s also Fort Worth City Councilman Moon.
The live music concert business is “the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do,” Moon admits three years later, also saying this: He’s getting the hang of it and having a good time along the way.
Arlington Music Hall history: Located on Center Street a block from City Hall, it opened in 1949 as a movie house, went dark briefly in the 1970s, and for a while after that served as a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall. It had a rebirth hosting the popular Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue until heart problems sidelined High. Collins, High’s neighbor, bought it, continuing a mostly country music theme with occasional highbrow performances from groups like the Arlington Symphony. The Babe’s Chicken component was constructed in 2010. Though the theater originally seated 1,050, those narrow kids’ matinee seats have been replaced by 733 wider leather seats. Musicians and fans typically love the up-close venue.
“Butts are just wider these days,” Moon jokes about the roomier seats.
Moon grew up in Burleson, with his engineer father performing as a gospel singer on the side, which meant Moon grew up with a constant exposure to live music. He was eight when his dad took him to his first concert, the Statler Brothers and Barbara Mandrel, playing at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
“I loved it, really enjoyed music,” Moon recalls, though his career took another direction after he finished up at Texas A&M – first in residential real estate, then commercial, then income property investment like the taverns and franchise restaurants.
There’s also his dabble in community service politics, which continues. He clearly excels at multi-tasking as well as living the life of a habitual numbers cruncher, the emphasis being on digits accompanied by dollar signs. Even today he runs the P&L sheets on new business acquisitions for at least the first year and personally crunches tax returns on every investment. But he’s had to give even more attention to the music biz.
The hall hosts big names in music ranging from Willie Nelson and Fleetwood Mac to Pure Prairie League and Bobby Bare, along with a steady diet of national touring tribute acts – Ricky Nelson, Pink Floyd and Elvis as examples. That entertainment strata likes to be paid handsomely. Who books those acts?
“I do,” Moon says, having taken over that task personally after less than satisfactory earlier results. “What’s different about this business is the customer cycle is long. We’re booking for late in 2019. We have to make good decisions well in advance.”
Moon developed a strategy of economy and attractiveness in booking by working out a collaborative deal with venues in Austin and The Woodlands – artists and agents like the three-at-a-time in a week. It’s paying off. Since Moon’s group bought the theater, downtown Arlington has exploded with new businesses and multi-family development, with more to come. And he’s been able to book acts such as Graham Nash, Don McLean, the Oakridge Boys and others popular groups.
Oh, and that Arlington Tavern he originally meant to build three years ago? Ground-breaking on it starts this year.
224 N. Center St., Arlington
O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington.