O.K. Carter: Commentary: Music entrepreneur Bob Johnson launches a new venue with seasoned staff

Brooks Kendall and Bob Johnson

The Post at River East

2925 Race St.

Fort Worth 76111


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Bob Johnson wouldn’t exactly describe The Post at River East (2925 Race St.) as a reincarnation of the popular – but troubled and now closed – live music/restaurant/bar venue Live Oak. But it does, after all, have the same four people running it.

And the same owner, which would be Johnson himself, an Arlington-based investor and entrepreneur.

“I was a minor investor before Live Oak opened – the endeavor had as many as 34 investors – but over time ended up being the majority owner,” Johnson said of the defunct Live Oak, a business venture which he sees in retrospect as more than a bit of a conundrum.

The conundrum?

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It was a popular-but-unprofitable music venue that often sold out performances and which steadily increased revenues. But which in his opinion was saddled with unfixable high rents in its Near South location, too much overhead and too many owners.

Johnson concedes he has a lifetime itch – he loves live music and prefers it in an up-close environment. And so, he kept the Live Oak staff nucleus together with a smallish venue called Fort Worth Live (He describes it as “A hole in the wall”), located off downtown Sundance Square, while searching for a more appropriate location.

Though a location off Belknap in Fort Worth almost at the Haltom City limits was not on his mind, he nevertheless agreed to take a grudging look at the 2925 Race Street site, Race Street itself being in the midst of an evolving boom.

“When they told me it was off Belknap, I said ‘I don’t think so,’ but it didn’t take much to make me change my mind,” Johnson said.

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What Johnson found was a circa 1946 post office building that had itself been the former Sylvania Station post office, though the post office operation had long since moved on as a variety of business endeavors set up there – everything from a motorcycle shop and medical supplies building to a wedding venue.

The building does not appear post office-like at all, a recent investor trying to give it a Miami-style white stucco front façade complete with a pair of towering palm trees.

“It didn’t have the rooftop patio of Live Oak, but it did have a massive patio leading to the front door,” Johnson said.

But the clincher was behind the building: One of the bugaboos of Live Oak had been parking, but this new location? It has a sprawling parking lot.

What Johnson does not want is for patrons to think The Post at River Oak is Live Oak II. It isn’t.

“As you look at the stage and patio it has more of a Louisiana/Miami kind of vibe,” Johnson said, delivering a short tour. “It’s slightly smaller than the Live Oak but better organized. We continue to be big supporters of live music. In addition to performers on the stage we have musicians performing on the patio at the same.”

Frequency of live music? Every night, sometimes on stage, sometimes on the patio.

The staff? They’ll all be Live Oak familiars: The general manager is Shannon Harris, bar manager Garrett Maupin, while Brooks Kendall is entertainment manager and Rodney Parker is production manager.

“I’m the owner but I’m not a music professional,” Johnson said. “I thought it was important to keep the base of the Live Oak crew together. We want to be mostly a unique restaurant with music place.”

The menu is brief and sandwich and salad oriented but interesting – ranging from cumin rubbed ribs, pepperoni and green chili flatbread to the robo pimento, a roast beef sandwich piled high with green chili pimento cheese on a signature roll. The signature dessert changes daily but the bread pudding is a big winner.

The restaurant opens at 11. The bar closes at midnight and there’s typically a happy hour. Patio music starts at 7, inside music at 8.

The goal, Johnson adds, is “not necessarily to attract super young people but to have a strategy built around the restaurant and bar because music itself isn’t a big money maker. It’s what we do and what we love and what we encourage, but it’s not how we keep the place open.”

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.