MyGayHouston: You've had a great level of success as a club promoter, including winning several awards. Did you always know that you wanted to do this line of work?
Julie Mabry: I've known since the ripe age of sixteen that I wanted to own a bar/club. I drew an amateur blueprint of a club called Cactus Jean's at that age and the dream never ended.
How do you balance your work with Girl Jam Productions and running the Pearl Lounge?
Let's just say Girl Jam merged with Pearl. Girl Jam started when my friends Sheila Jares and Jennifer Haymen came up with the idea to have a women's music festival. I just kept running with that concept and turned it into Girl Jam Productions, which was a promotional brand for lesbian events. I have Pearl to focus on now and we will still have Girl Jam's once in a while, but my brand is now Pearl.
What made you interested in owning Pearl Lounge? As an older building, some would have been more attracted to a new building.
My business partner Mariana and I had been looking for a spot to open a lesbian bar for almost a year. I was bartending at Little J's (which is now Pearl Side Bar) and the landlord would come collect the rent every month, and I would beg her to let me lease Pearl. Being that I had been a part of The Usual for a few years, I knew the area and I knew that it was a good location. Mariana owns Avant Garden in Montrose and, at the time, Avant had been open for 17 years, so I knew that she and I, together, could make something magical happen.
In my opinion, the fact that it's an older building only gives Pearl a classier feel by which I feel lesbians and all of our customers deserve. Not only did my landlord invest a large amount of money to remodel the building, my business partner did too. The building is actually a candidate to win The Great Brick Award of Houston, a prestigious Historical Society award, and I have a strong feeling that Pearl won.
Did you have any missteps or regrets about how your ownership/transition to Pearl Lounge progressed?
None. I chose the best business partner I could have ever hoped for and she guided me the whole way through. I have no regrets.
What makes Pearl Lounge stand out from other clubs in Houston?
You can dance at Pearl Bar to DJ Ben Phoenix from KRBE then walk next door to Pearl Side Bar and play Ms Pac Man. Need I say more?
Do you have any plans or goals for growth or change in the club?
We just negotiated an extension to our lease that will keep us on the Washington Avenue map for quite a while. We just changed Pearl Sports to Pearl Side Bar to give it a more broad attraction. We will be adding a kitchen to Pearl Side Bar in the next few months.
How does living in Houston as opposed to any other city influence your work?
We have a lesbian mayor. Need I say more?
Washington Ave. is a vibrant part of the city with a famously loud and rambunctious nightlife scene. Has the location been a good fit for your vision of Pearl Lounge?
I'm not sure how long it has been since you've driven down Washington but it's changed significantly in the past three years. A lot of those rambunctious clubs have closed. Washington has mostly restaurants and townhomes that have popped up in the past few years. I think Pearl is fitting right in with the new direction of this area.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
My mom. She is the hardest working woman I have ever known and definitely the most understanding. I wouldn't be here without her.
By Jenn Haight