The Half Moon Saloon opened its doors two years ago in an area of downtown Brownsville few would consider suitable for investment. But owner George Ramirez has a vision and it has a lot to do with the cultural revitalization of the area.
“I have a much bigger goal than running a bar,” said Ramirez a lover of good music who in the past co-chaired the Cultural Sub-Committee of Imagine Brownsville and currently serves as President of the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts and is a board member of Texas for the Arts. Ramirez was born in Mexico City and raised in Los Angeles. In 1982 he relocated to Brownsville to start a business called Polibrid Coatings that grants him the freedom to pursue his passion for music which he believes stems from his childhood days in Mexico City when he was forced to attend live operas directed by his grandfather.
The Half Moon Saloon is nestled in the “Buena Vida District” (Good Life District) in the Brownsville Market Square area. It is no secret that the area is home to underprivileged families and bars of ill repute, but Ramirez saw an opportunity when he purchased the 12,000 sq. ft. Hyde Yard historical building that housed a store and warehouse in the 1880s. “Every city has a past and an area that is different than others. Wars happened in these streets, there is so much history here. This was the old west!” said Ramirez who also stated he felt an obligation to improve the life of his fellow citizens by helping develop a heritage tourism strategy that will revitalize the area and create jobs. “The Half Moon Saloon helps as inspiration for others to come and open businesses here. It starts the conversation. I don’t want to be the only one here, for I can only provide so many jobs. No, I want many more businesses here where people come and enjoy live music and a good time. I want the area to be the place for the best sound and look in the Valley,” he said. Today, thanks to efforts by the city and private investors, most “cantinas” have been eradicated and the area is flourishing. “Stuff is actually happening here.” said Ramirez.
The Half Moon Saloon is located on a corner along the future 11th street corridor; an Imagine Brownsville project to create a pedestrian walkway from the Rio Grande to the Country Courts Park and eventually even to the Port of Brownsville. Behind the Half Moon Saloon there are plans to build a plaza across from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, and another historical building two blocks south of the Half Moon Saloon will house a performing arts academy in 2017 thanks to efforts supported by Ramirez. He knows these projects will positively impact the Half Moon Saloon and the neighborhood. Today, Ramirez said patrons include those visiting Brownsville who are dragged to the place by relatives who cannot wait to show them the “new” market square area. “People from north Brownsville and Matamoros come here all the time,” he said. One thing Ramirez chose not to disclose is the total investment so far, for he says it is “too much” mostly due to restoration expenses, but he plans to ride it out until the area revitalizes.
One of the greatest challenges for those seeking to invest in the restoration of a historic building is that banks only see the current value. Banks don’t put a value on the future of a building and the business it will house complicating efforts for private investors. But Ramirez sees hope in the newly implemented historic preservation and rehabilitation tax credits for South Texas which he plans to access to complete plans of a fully catered event center housed in the same historic Hyde Yard building.
With 20 years of experience producing shows, Ramirez only hires the best musicians to play at the Half Moon Saloon. Classic acoustic guitarists, jazz and blues bands are scheduled weekly. “We are planting a cultural seed here for a live music entertainment district like you’ve never known,” said Ramirez. “People often say the place feels like Austin, but I say no, this is like Brownsville; this is Brownsville at its best.”
Follow the Half Moon Saloon on Facebook or visit at 1101 E. Adams St. in Brownsville. Phone is (956) 574-9779