Iconic Country Venue The Firehouse Saloon Goes Up in Flames

It’s a sad ending to a unique and iconic part of Texas country history, and country history in general. Houston’s beloved Firehouse Saloon located at 5930 Southwest Fwy with its big sign towering over Interstate 69 was well beloved and recognized throughout the city, and throughout the country music performer class as one of the best places to play in town.

As an up-and-coming artist from Texas, Miranda Lambert once played there to five people when she was just 14, just trying to get her name out there. The Firehouse Saloon was that kind of place that would give local performers and up-and-comers a chance. But more often than not, the wooden dance floor was packed when acts like The Randy Rogers Band would come through town. Big mainstream names such as Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton played there too. But mostly, it was a place for the road dogs and locals of Texas country.

It wasn’t just the performers who called themselves Firehouse Saloon alumnus, it was the uniqueness of the spot that made it so special. Fashioned from the wooden floor up to look like an old saloon with a fire truck parked out front, it was owned, operated, and completely staffed by retired firefighters. First opened in 1992, it was a unique concept, and one whose commitment was country. “If you’re looking for a place to enjoy real country music, the kind you heard on the radio growing up, then Firehouse Saloon is the place for you,” was one of their mottos.

And people loved the place. The Firehouse Saloon was nominated 4 years in a row as Music Venue of the Year by Lone Star Music Awards, and ranked #1 Honky Tonk in Houston by the Houston Press.

Originally opened by Marshall and Duane Hefley, they sold the business to Tom Imber in 2009, who kept the ethos of the original concept alive, even if the spot starting hosting more private parties and corporate events to help stay afloat in an area increasingly threatened by developers. According to Tom Imber, 2019 was the best year for the business, but then you can probably guess what happened after that.

Due to COVID, the business shut down in March of 2020, and never reopened. Then in November of 2020, they announced they were closing the location for good, and that the owner of the land had sold out to a developer—a common story with so many iconic music venues. However, owner Tom Imber let it be known that the legacy of the Firehouse Saloon would endure. They would moving the venue outside of Houston, likely to Montgomery county.

When fire ironically engulfed the Firehouse Saloon early Thursday morning (6/17) at around 1:45 a.m., it was nonetheless a sad ending for a place that saw nearly three decades of music and memories. Though the building had been mostly abandoned for over a year, it wasn’t the final farewell fans, owners, and patrons had in mind.

Hopefully, the legacy of Houston’s Firehouse Saloon will endure somewhere, and the next future country music superstar or Texas country act will get their first shot on the stage. The Firehouse Saloon going up in flames might be a strange epitaph given the building’s and business’s history. But seeing how it was already on the demolition block, perhaps it’s all the more fitting, and will make a good story in the future.

© 2021 Saving Country Music
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