Last Call: Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Hyena’s Comedy Night Club and Sports Bar\r\n605 Houston St, FW. \r\n817-877-5233.\r\n\r\nLaRumba\r\n2513 Rodeo Plaza, FW. \r\n817-740-8100.
Last Laughs

Randy Butler spends a lot of time in the basement. His comedy nightclub, Hyena’s, is located there in a building owned by a mega-real estate company on Houston Street near Sundance Square. But when it comes to moving and shaking downtown, Butler ain’t no mother-ducking ostrich.

Old boy knows how to play his cards. Several years ago, when the only spot for the young and the showered was the Red Goose Saloon, Butler opened Swank in the space adjacent to his club (eventually taken over by Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille). When a couple more Red Goose-y-but-classier joints started popping up, Butler opened Cafingo’s in the space that used to be Hyena’s lobby.

Today, as the swanky establishments approach what surely must be maximum density downtown, Butler plans to launch his latest project. For the Super Bowl this Sunday, Hyena’s Comedy Night Club will officially become Hyena’s Comedy Night Club and Sports Bar (my emphasis). In other words, he’s taken Hyena’s plush furniture and cocktail vibe and replaced it with the aroma of stogies and beer.

“We’ve pretty much changed everything in that lounge,” he said. “I almost named it The No Rent Bar [because] the comedy pays for everything. ... But I wanted to keep the Hyena’s name involved.”

Though Butler says he made the change to do something different, he’s a wily son of a gun. The obvious reason is that while fancy folks have an embarrassment of places to party, the mature football-loving masses are made to feel like second-class citizens downtown.

The low prices will lure the sports nuts in and keep ‘em there: $1.50 domestics, $2.25 well drinks, $2.75 you-call-its, and $3.50 premiums. Day in, day out, all six days of the week that Hyena’s is open. Once it gets moving, Butler plans to add a bar menu, plus acoustic music and karaoke.

Yes, there’ll also be stage time for open-mic comedy. Like I told you, he’s wily.

La Wild Wild West

Club Fusion used to be the Stockyards’ answer to the Wild Wild West, but since the hip-hop spot closed last year, the rootin’ and tootin’ has moved — but not very far.

The new throwback to the days of Hell’s Half Acre, according to police, is nearby LaRumba. One packed weekend evening not too long ago, for example, a bartender tried to break up a brawl by launching beer bottles (note the plural form) at the assorted combatants from behind the bar. And inebriated minors, my police source says, are not uncommon.

He goes on further to say that LaRumba, which, like most Stockyard dance clubs, is open only on weekends, is “a miniature Fusion.” LaRumba management, in his estimation, is not “taking any steps to curtail the criminal activities.”

Co-owner Nguyen Nguyen disagrees. He said that despite the city’s rap sheet, his management staff has made significant changes. He said that bartenders who’ve been caught serving minors have been fired, and that management has recently instituted a non-gangsta dress code to keep potential troublemakers out. Patronage remains strong.

“We’ve only had two big fights outside the club, but that’s the nature of the business,” Nguyen said. “You have to put that in relation to other clubs in the surrounding area and in the city. It’s not what you think it is. At the end of the night you’d have an army of police at Fusion. You don’t see that at LaRumba.”

Regardless, both the Fort Worth Police Department and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are considering whether to renew LaRumba’s liquor license, which has been pending since mid-December. In layman’s terms, this means that LaRoyalRumble will be on a short leash.

Co-owner Carmine Bianco teamed up with Nguyen to open the Latin-themed club a few months ago, after Bianco’s former concept in the same spot, The Silver Spur, couldn’t draw a regular crowd. The Silver Spur also didn’t develop Fusion’s — or LaRumba’s — reputation. So do more people equal more problems?

As the FWPD will tell you, always.

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