Bar 828–A Fleeting Speakeasy in Oak Cliff

Changing the mural at Bar 828.

Arti Sharma, D Magazine intern and a grant writer for Promise House  the nonprofit that receives a portion of the proceeds from Bar 828, visited the popular pop-up bar last weekend and files this report.

Feel free to play some theme music.

Driving along the 800 block on the west side Davis Street, you may notice something particularly peculiar about the venue that sits on lot 828.  At first glance, you will see a tattered building that shells what may have been a forgotten afterthought, abandoned in the midst of what perhaps was meant to be an idea. You may not further heed its quaintness, and will write it off as an empty nest.  But you see, inside an oyster, sometimes there is a pearl.  And inside 828, is something just as precious and rare: Bar 828.

Pretty pictures of pretty pop-up bar below.

From the outside looking in.

Pop-up bars do not exist in Texas.  Until about a week ago.  That’s when Bar 828 pried opened its windows and pulled up its garage doors for guests who had serendipitously–or through the grapevine– stumbled upon this modern-day speakeasy that crafts pre-prohibition era cocktails, where a portion of the proceeds are donated to Promise House, a Dallas-based nonprofit.

Michael Martensen, partner of Bar 828 and part-owner of Cedars Social, says pop-up bars are a rarity because the requisite permits are extremely difficult to obtain.  However, about a month ago, when Amy Wallace Cowan and Rob Shearer, who are friends with Mark Miranda and Sean Byrnes, some of the partners who own the 828 building, were pontificating on ways to make use of building that is for sale, Martensen took it to another level.  “He not only wanted to do cocktails, but he wanted real glassware, and he wanted to involve the best bartenders around Dallas,” Wallace Cowan says.  Thus, the pop-up bar at 828 W. Davis Street was born.  It would function as a medium to showcase the space, serve pure-bred potations crafted by talented mixologists, and—what may be the cherry on top of the Old Fashioned— it would raise money for charity.

Promise House Inside, City Street Grille Food Truck Outside.

When it came to choosing a beneficiary, Wallace Cowan picked Promise House– one of the only homeless shelters in North Texas specifically for youth.  It provides a continuum of services including safe shelter, nutritious meals, medical care, psychological care, case-management services, on-site education, life and job skills, and more.  Martensen supported the idea as well as the mission behind Promise House because he believes the most influential time in someone’s life is during the teenage period.  It is when you develop your character and style as a person, Martensen says.

Whether you prefer fruity, savory or something-in-between, no palate is discriminated at Bar 828.  Ten dollars a pop (5 for the nonalcoholic bevs) and with no menu in sight, clients line up at the bar and explain what sorts of drinks they like. Your preferences are meticulously designed into a fresh-ingredient, quality cocktail– hand crafted by famous mixologists like Brian McCullough (ex- Smoke affiliate), who will open Standard Pour sometime in mid-November in Uptown Dallas.  “The pop-up bar was so well-received,” said McCullough, who practically cringed when he uttered the word, Vodka.  “Vodka is a neutral spirit,” McCullough says.  That’s the kind of stuff that makes him believe it’s time for uptown to mature its cocktail repertoire.  So don’t be surprised if you don’t see “three-olive anything” at Standard Pour’s debut.  But you can look forward to enjoying Green Hour with an old-world era drink in your hand, libations from all genres and decades, and barrel-aged concoctions (you will just have to wait and see).

Dressed for the occasion.

Until then, seize your one, last- Lost Weekend opportunity to explore 828 W Davis Street.  There are not many places around here that have that word-of-mouth-atmosphere, with a feel-good-charity vibe, and all of the trappings that capture the spirit of a speakeasy.  You can even come dressed for the occasion, as the closing of Bar 828 will end with a costume party this upcoming Saturday.  Cash only, drink-ticket system.  On-site food trucks around 10PM.

Finished mural.
Outdoor fun.

[Ed Note: This update from Bar 828 just in:

Great news for do-gooding cocktail lovers: A portion of proceeds will benefit local charity, Promise House

October 25, 2011 – Again & Again is thrilled to partner with BAR 828, the hip and charitable “pop-up” cocktail establishment in Oak Cliff, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Again & Again will transform the space with vintage furniture, all available for purchase, in an effort to encourage customers to be social in the name of charity.

The BAR 828 makeover will include Mid-century Modern, Hollywood Regency, and Danish Modern pieces, as well as some accessories and lighting. A portion of the proceeds from BAR 828 and Again & Again’s collaboration will go to Promise House, which helps disadvantaged and runaway kids. BAR 828 raised $1000 in its first weekend of operation, evidence of the bar’s huge success.

“Again & Again hopes to give BAR 828 a fun, vintage vibe that will add to the ambiance and take the bar to the next level, while at the same time raising funds to make a difference in the community,” said Again & Again owner, Leslie Pritchard.

BAR 828 is set up in an old warehouse and serves up a variety of cocktails from some of Dallas’ top mixologists. Since the cities’ first “pop-up” bar opened in mid-October, it has become a hot spot for cocktail-enthusiasts, with a menu featuring drinks from bars and restaurants including: the Windmill, Marquee Grill, Cedar Social, Whiskey Cake, The Usual, Sfuzzi, Bolsa, and more. BAR 828 will close its doors this Saturday, October 29.


  • Julia

    Wow, This looks like a fun and unique way to spend a night. I need to check it out this weekend!

  • Child

    Looks like a great place to spend halloween as Boardwalk Empire characters!

  • Micaela

    Awesome article! Bar 828 is definitely a cool idea in a great area! Brings a good culture and feel to the area. I can’t wait to swing by!

  • Carrie

    Excellent article! As a Dallas native who no longer living in the area, I wonder if Dallas is actually a cool place to live now? I can’t wait to visit it next time I’m back.

  • cbs

    off topic slightly, but I am surprised there has not been more (any) coverage of the guy robbed and shot in Bishop Arts this past weekend.

    I don’t know if it is that shooting is common there (which would shock me) or if it is that the businesses there are covering it up to avoid scaring people away.

  • Pingback: The Skinny – Bar 828 | Deb Doing Dallas()

  • @cbs

    that is awful to hear!! i hope that this will bring awareness to the area and business owners. perhaps they can unite and push for more security/law enforcement/video surveillance. but the last thing we need is for patrons to be scared away because that in turn will cause these businesses to be scared away from the area.

  • Cornelius

    Does anyone know what the place is next door to bar 828? It has a giant screen tv. Is it a bar?

  • The shooting in Bishop Arts last weekend was a very isolated incident. (I am not familiar with another violent crime in the Bishop Arts area in the 9 years I’ve lived in the neighborhood.) It was on the news last weekend and has been covered by Oak Cliff People Newspaper and Oak Cliff Advocate Magazine. Councilperson Delia Jasso has confirmed that the Chief of Police has drastically increased patrols in the area and says they are committed to keeping guests and residents in the area safe.

    Statistically speaking, there have been significantly more violent crimes on Greenville than around Bishop Arts.

    The place next to 828 is actually a private residence (or the garage behind the residence and the owner has created one of the most amazing ‘man caves’ I’ve even seen.

  • cbs

    Rob- Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the coverage by OC People was glib at best(but you are correct, they did cover it).

    My understanding is the guy shot has a tremendous road to recovery and the shot missed his spinal column by an inch.

    The incident happened @8pm (peak dinner time, not late night) and in the primary parking lot for BA. The fact that there are no witnesses and no shop owner willing to speak to police seems odd.

    I take my family to BA almost weekly. Never had an issue, but the boldness and severity of this incident will make me rethink that (and comparing BA to lower Greenville doesn’t help the case much). Although, I would like to see the stats on violent crime.

  • Juan Contreras

    I’ve been to BAR828 since it opened and the drinks are amazing. These mixologist know their stuff. Nothing better than drinking some booze and knowing you’re also helping a local organization like Promise House. Loved how they transformed the unused garage into this artsy pop up bar.