It's probably safe to say that the inspiration for East Bound and Down Ice House, a new bar opening on Ross Avenue, is unique. The theme is the kitschy '70s movie Smokey and the Bandit, the movie starring Burt Reynolds as the bandit (not the HBO series of the same name, as one might presume).
Smokey is a favorite flick of Ben Harper, who's opening the bar with partner Adam Tucker. "It's a classic movie. You can watch it 100 times and still enjoy it," says Harper, who at age 31 was not alive when it came out.
The Smokey references manifest themselves in ways both obvious and subtle.
"It's going to look like a Texas roadhouse bar," Harper says. "We're getting as much memorabilia as we can, including some autographed posters we bought off Amazon."
But the most obvious tribute is the mural on the exterior of the building, painted by Isaac Brown, with a re-creation of the stagecoach and horses that were on the side of Jerry Reed's truck in the film.
Harper and Tucker are bar industry veterans, having logged years at clubs such as Wit's End in Deep Ellum, Reno's, July Alley, the original Elm Street Bar, the Galaxy Club, and Club Dada.
"I've always wanted to open my own bar and have been working toward it for at least 10 years," Harper says. "Adam and I have been running around for nine months trying to find a building. We looked at this two years ago, and were finally able to get it."
Ross Avenue is on the brink of a major overhaul, as square-box apartment buildings replace what used to be a scrabbly collection of car lots, dry cleaners, and other small businesses. The building they've secured is a nondescript box that was pretty much an empty shell, but they made a happy discovery when they took down the old ceiling.
"It had these old wooden rafters, which we're keeping," Harper says.
It also comes with a parking lot — a big plus — and a massive backyard space that'll be home to a patio and stage where they'll host acoustic musicians.
"We'll have live music, but it'll be more of an early-evening Saturday-afternoon thing," he says.
The bar menu will include nothing-fancy cocktails and about a dozen craft beers on tap. They'll have a few TVs to catch some sports. They're aiming to open by mid-March.
"We just want a bar to have fun at, a place where we would go hang out," he says.