Woes and Oz

Apparently the problem with Dallas’ fabulous restaurant – discotheque, Oz, is its reputation. Nearly every month since Oz’s celebrated opening two years ago, the posh private club on LBJ Freeway has run in the red, while serving fine wine and haute cuisine to the city’s bluebloods. The problem stems from tales of Oz’s wealthy restaurant clientele, who have generated some fabulous stories of how one can spend a small fortune at the restaurant. While the tales are quite entertaining, owner Ron Monesson says they have scared off prospective patrons of lesser means.

Take the night the son of Mexican President Luis Echeverria Alvarez pulled up to Oz in two long, black limousines, with his party of four. The party drew attention by ordering a large dinner and several bottles of wine, each bottle selling for more than $100. By the time the evening was over, the Echeverria party had run up a $1,300 tab, mostly in wine, and thus another fabulous Oz tale was born.

“It’s really a very delicate problem,” says Monesson. “We’ve got to continue appealing to those who like the finest food and wine, but we’ve also got to change the image that you’ve got to hock the family jewels to spend an evening at Oz.”

Monesson also has one other major problem – a bankruptcy proceeding which has engulfed all of his holdings except Oz. He managed to rescue Oz from the proceedings by proving that he really doesn’t own the restaurant. In fact, Oz is owned by Mercantile National Bank, which holds $1.3 million in notes on the property – unpaid since last February. Mercantile certainly isn’t interested in getting into the discotheque business, so Monesson will continue operating Oz.

Oz’s other major problem goes back to the old real estate adage that the three most important factors in land are location, location and location. Oz sits right in the middle of a bone dry precinct, which means that patrons must buy a private club membership before having a drink. At the moment those memberships cost $50 a year.

“I blew it,” Monesson concedes. “I made a mistake by picking a dry area for Oz. People resent having to pay a membership fee to be your patron.” Oz is also plagued by being an expensive cab ride for travelers lodged in downtown hotels, and if they make the trip out to Oz, they must buy a guest membership. Monesson also notes that he has been unable to pull in Dallas’ silk stocking crowd as frequently as he had hoped. “They tend to spend their evenings at places like Brook Hollow Golf Club, Dallas Country Club, or the prestigious downtown clubs like the City Club or the Petroleum Club,” he says. Monesson says Oz will make a move for a broader audience by offering $5 discotheque memberships and opening the disco for lunch, happy hour and moderately priced evening meals. “We’ve got to compete with Greenville Avenue,” he adds.

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