The back bar at Black Swan Saloon with that familiar velvet painting. Black Swan Saloon

Openings/Closings

Black Swan Saloon Shutters After a Decade in Deep Ellum

Bartender-owner Gabe Sanchez did something singular for Dallas’ bar scene. We hope it’s not the last we see of his skill and vision.

In a social media post on November 18, bartender and owner Gabe Sanchez shared the sad news: Black Swan Saloon is closing. 

Another day of this pandemic, another jab in the heart. The signless Deep Ellum bar off Elm Street closed after 10 years of superlative cocktails and buzzy congregation. In his announcement, Sanchez said there was no good way to say goodbye. “I’ve drug my feet trying to figure out the best way to convey how deeply grateful I am to have you all become part of my life. We’ve shared a lot together. High fives, hugs, laughs, cries, first dates, engagements, weddings, accomplishments, graduations, births of children, celebrating dear friends. Life. For all of these things and more I say thank you.”

What’s next for the space? Sanchez didn’t return messages for comment, but writes that he is passing the torch “to great neighborhood guys who I know will do an amazing job…” To that end, Central Track has the scoop on particulars about why Sanchez is closing and what’s next.

Black Swan was the platonic ideal of what a bar should be: a third place that felt personalized, intimate; a place to be among your people, even if they were complete strangers. In a neighborhood and even whole city in which big nightclubs mean customers come and go, Black Swan had a loyal roster of regulars.

In our Best Bars of Dallas feature, we named Black Swan Saloon one of the best places for cocktails. There was no question. “This homey, down-to-earth saloon opened in 2010 before the recent craft cocktail craze and set the standard. With no sign out front and no menu, the hidden Deep Ellum gem is all about the experience. Tell owner Gabe Sanchez—one of the best bartenders in town—what you like, and he’ll craft a custom cocktail to order from a selection of dozens of infused spirits,” we wrote in 2017. This Deep Ellum spot is the kind of place you stop in for a quick drink and never wind up leaving.

“I wanted to get to know every single person,” Sanchez told Central Track’s Pete Freedman in a Q&A in May. Not only is Sanchez a master of his craft, at Black Swan he took the time to get to know the person sitting across the bar top. It was about booze, sure, but people, too.

Early in the pandemic, Sanchez sold rad merch, t-shirts, and he made “dummy-proof” cocktail kits for folks to take home. But the bar scene has struggled greatly with the havoc from the coronavirus and the lack of help from governments at both the state and federal levels. Despite efforts to help with government-approved alcohol to-go programs, bars just had, and continue to have, a very hard time during this ongoing pandemic.

What does this mean for Dallas? It’s absolutely true that there will always be bars, and when one goes away, there will be another to take its place. What we lose in closures like Black Swan’s is a little part of a neighborhood’s soul.

While Black Swan meant to celebrate its 10 year anniversary on April 1, let’s raise a glass (or pour one out?) to the Deep Ellum gem. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we get to see of Sanchez’s talent.

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