Supply chain issues, be darned. The lack of furniture that was absolutely, positively supposed to be in a couple of weeks ago isn’t stopping new Uptown Bar & Lounge owner Ryan Williams, who is renting furniture because the ‘show must go on’ and go on it will!
The Grand Opening is tonight! Uptown will be filled with music, special drinks will be flowing at the Happy Hour from 7-9 pm, the Bones House of Smoke food truck will make certain tummies are filled and there will be general conviviality for the kickoff of Williams’ brand new business at 1605 Marshall St. His planned hours of operation are: Thursday, 7 pm-Midnight, Friday & Saturday, 9 pm- 2 am, Sundays, 7 pm- Midnight, and Mondays, 6 pm- Midnight.
In 1924, Marshall Street south of Lake Street and north of Wall Street (yes, Shreveport has a Wall Street) was a happening place. Dozens of trains per day were coming and going from Union Station and Central Station just up the way, almost every lot along the street was filled with commercial shops; business was good and the future looked bright.
The building at 1605 Marshall had just opened. In one side of the building, 1601 Marshall, was Dickson Ice Cream Co., Inc., home to Fig-Walnut Ice Cream, made from ‘Smyrna figs and black walnuts combined with sweet cream and pure sugar.’ Next door at 1605 Marshall was Roscoe’s Electric Shop, reached by dialing 2-1237 on your party-line phone.
By 1934, 1601 had become the Hasty-Tasty Eat Shop, home to $.15 steak sandwiches, the ‘best in Shreveport’, and over time became home to a business machines company, a typewriter service shop, a liquor store, antiques store, and, in 1994, a business that some will remember—the Fun Shop.
The 1605 side of the building moved from Roscoe’s to a Whippet Auto dealer to Stanley’s Model A Ford dealership in 1936. 1605, too, served a succession of owners and tenants, including a list of liquor stores and bars- The Del Rio in 1943, Ross’ Lounge in 1966, the Castaway Club in 1971. The Castaway is hands-down winner of the best ad that we could find.
‘Frustated? Crunch a Goober at The Castaway Club.’ We did not know ‘crunching a Goober’ would lessen ‘frustations’, but now we do. Live and learn. The Rabbit Hutch Lounge followed in 1972, and the Silver Spur Lounge in 1974. Eleven more lounges and clubs would follow until the most recent— Southern Soul Lounge— which occupied the space from 2009-2020. It’s 2021 and things have changed…and they haven’t. The two spaces, 1601 and 1605 Marshall, have been sold to Ryan Williams, a businessman with a dream of bringing life and commerce and activity back to this section of Marshall Street. Williams first business in the Downtown Development District (DDD), is Seedlinks Behavior Management at 1533 Marshall, which opened in 2020.
Even then, Williams was looking at playing a larger role and considering other nearby buildings to add to his inventory and it wasn’t long before the building at 1601/1605 caught his eye. 1605 was already a nightclub and the thought of a gathering place to dance, relax, listen to live music and watch football appealed to Williams. He started the process of negotiating with the owner, and once he was able to call it his own, launched what we call- ‘Marshall Street Improvement Phase 2.’
The exterior of the building is taking shape with new paint, stone inlay, planters and signage. The north wall and a portion of the patio area in the rear will feature a mural by Ka’Davien Baylor, the talented painter who curated the ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ mural on the south wall of Seedlinks.
Williams is a serious and accomplished business owner, a graduate of Grambling State University who served in the military before returning to Shreveport, so it is entertaining to see how much pure delight he is taking in every aspect of his new Uptown Bar and Lounge. He has pulled history on the buildings and tells me, “This was the first fire retardant building in the city.” He talks about the cars— the Model As, Willys and Whippets—that used to sit in the former showroom.
Williams chose the color scheme of gold, browns and white to be warm and calming, pored over furnishings to find the perfect buckskin-wrapped natural wood pieces, worked with his crews to leave a patina on the historic concrete floor, is excited at finding perfect art and signage for the walls, and has absolutely fallen in love with the Halo LED lights he had installed inside.
He smiles when he talks about them. “I love these Halo lights,” he beams. “They are my new favorites.” The 101 details that he is being called on to make daily seem not to faze him, in fact, they seem to be fueling his energy and motivation.
He is juggling crews, working with local vendors and businesses and is happy with all, save a local restaurant supplier who he feels is acting in bad faith. (Ask him. He will tell you who to avoid.) He is also working on the back of the building, adding to and improving an existing patio, adding a stage area for live bands, a VIP seating area and an outdoor bar.
IF the furnishings for the club arrive in time, Williams plans a grand opening weekend for Oct. 28. His plans now are to be open Thursday- Monday. Thursday will be for football viewing on his ten television sets around the club and 65″ bar TV. Friday and Saturday will be more upscale evenings, with a $20 cover charge. Sunday nights will feature R&B favorites. On Mondays, he hopes to have football and a type of ‘Monday Night Live’, similar to Showtime at the Apollo, giving local acts an opportunity to get their start and build an audience. His bar will be equipped for all types of drinks, including some specialty drinks of the house, and food trucks will be invited to participate on certain nights- at least initially.
Williams eventually hopes to provide food from his own restaurant in the adjacent 1601 space. He is already working with local architect Jason Cram on plans.
This is a serious endeavor, and a large investment…but Williams says it is not his last. His goal is that ‘Uptown’ and Downtown will be THE place that people think of for entertainment, food and friends, and his goals are to do more. He is already considering next moves in an area that has seen to little in terms of movement, imagination and investment over the years.
We say ‘Bravo’, wish success, and will be looking to see what comes next for Ryan Williams and Uptown.
Planned hours of operation are: Thursday, 6pm-Midnight, Friday & Saturday, 9 pm- 2am, Sundays, 7 pm- Midnight, and Mondays, 6 pm- Midnight.