News Column

Dos Amigos on New/old Path

Feb. 4, 2013

Corey Paul

Ronnie Lewis stood inside Dos Amigos, a bar he founded that so many people here remember as a West Texas icon, describing how it used to look.

In those days, the early 1980s, it was just one room, and Lewis built it himself after buying the property, a former livery. There'd be steak at lunchtime and tables outside. The occasional country band would perform at night. And there were live bull rides.

Jerry Jeff Walker would make Dos Amigos a regular stop -- and Walker's wife, Lewis remembers, wouldn't let him come unless she was present. Eventually, big Texas media would come for write-ups, like Texas Monthly and the Dallas Morning News' travel section, and people would travel here from around the state to check it out.

But most knew Dos Amigos as Odessa's little country pub.

"During the day it was lawyers, bankers and roughnecks," Lewis said. "And at night you'd have lawyers, bankers and roughnecks. It was cool."

But Dos Amigos would drift away from this atmosphere. After about 25 years of running his bar, Lewis, wanting a change, sold Dos Amigos in 2007. The couple that bought it sold to Bubba Saulsbury, of the prominent Odessa family, but they decided they'd like to stick around and manage the place, so Saulsbury leased it to them.

Acts like Willie Nelson would still play, but so would acts like DMX, the (literally) barking rapper and even Snoop Dogg. There were lots of heavy metal bands too, as Dos Amigos became more concert venue than pub.

Saulsbury said thousands of people still came and the bar still turned a nice profit the last few years. But the couple's lease is up, creating a fresh opportunity to set Dos Amigos on a new/old path.

"To me, this is as close to Odessa as you can get," said Saulsbury, himself a lifelong Odessan who used to frequent the bar. "It was always more than an investment."

Saulsbury got the keys back on Thursday, and invited the Odessa American to come by and chat about the bar's redirection. With him was Ronnie Lewis, who Saulsbury is consulting for advice and a refresher on the bar's history.

"It's been like my baby," Lewis said. "I want to see her keep going."

Dos Amigos is closed for renovation right now and will be through spring until the bar opens again, hopefully by early summer. Saulsbury kept quiet about the plans, which are still being ironed out. But he said there would be no major structural changes: still the same bar Lewis built, just spruced (at least cleaned) up a bit.

"It'll have the same look and feel and the old atmosphere," he said. Saulbury said he hasn't hired a new operator yet either, and he'll again take a mostly hands-off approach, but he wants someone who shares his and Lewis' vision.

In a tour of the building, Saulsbury stopped in the upstairs VIP room (where a bird had apparently become trapped and kept flapping into the windows) to look out over the patio of the bar, where there's a large stage and the bull riding pit. There will still be bull rides: Those never went away. But on that stage, more country bands, more local bands, and neither so often as to overwhelm the hang out.

"After 30 years it needs some tender, love and care," he said. "And a lot of people have come through here, so it's been 30 hard years . . . You can have it all without going too far in one direction."



Source: (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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