Popular artist hangout Crush Wine Lounge closes
Crush Wine Lounge, considered the first wine bar in The Woodlands and also the unofficial home to the creative arts community in the township, has closed.
Ruth Hallaway, owner of the popular restaurant, announced on Facebook that the restaurant and wine bar closed at the end of the day on April 30, ending a 10-year run that saw the venue become the host of the wildly popular monthly Artfeel events as well as VIP events associated with the Inspire Film Festival and other events.
“Our lease was up and it has been 10 years, and we decided to do something different,” Hallaway said in a telephone interview. “We had the lease for 10 years and knew it was coming to an end. It was hard, because we loved our staff and our customers.”
Hallaway said she opened the restaurant 10 years ago when Waterway Square was beginning to be developed, noting she has been the only tenant of the building since then. The idea to open a wine bar and restaurant, she said, was borne from her former experience with her ex-husband of owning a bar in Houston before moving to The Woodlands.
“My ex-husband and I had a bar on Main Street in Houston, and we moved up here to raise our kids,” Hallaway said. “People came up to us and said there was a need for a bar here. My ex-husband decided we would open a restaurant. Wine had just become really popular … everybody wanted a relaxing place to hang out and sip wine. We had to wait until the building was built to move in.”
The announcement of the closure on Facebook drew more than 450 comments from dedicated customers, staff and friends lamenting the closure and wishing Hallaway and others on the staff good luck. The restaurant was lauded for its unique architecture, interior decorations and elevator to the terrace. The lounge was also named “Best Bar” in The Woodlands several times and served up tasty food and featured unique wines.
“We had dual atmospheres — the first floor was a wine cellar-type lounge and the upstairs terrace had private cabanas,” Hallaway said. “We were the only rooftop terrace (in the township) at the time (of opening).”
Nickole Kerner Bobley, a local writer and former Villager arts columnist, hosted monthly meet-ups at the restaurant called Artfeel, which she founded and coordinated with The Woodlands Arts Council. Bobley said her last Artfeel event was April 24 and that she was saddened to learn of the closure, but is planning to relocate Artfeel and begin the meet-ups as soon as possible.
Bobley said the relationship with Hallaway began in 2017, when Hallaway created ‘Wish You Were Here Wednesdays’ that was free of charge and open to the public. Eventually, Artfeel, a live variety show that honored public art, became one of the first recurring Wednesday events, done in conjunction with The Woodlands Arts Council, Bobley added.
“When a small stage was needed for Artfeel, Ruth built one. When a new sound system was needed for Artfeel, Ruth bought one. She and Amy Lecocq of The Woodlands Arts Council were two of Artfeel’s earliest and biggest supporters,” Bobley said in an email to The Villager. “Artfeel wouldn’t be what it is today without Ruth Hallaway. We are so grateful to have had a home at Crush these past two years.”
Hallaway said her collaboration with the arts council, Bobley and hosting Artfeel was something she felt was needed in The Woodlands, a place where liberal creatives and artists have felt out of place at times because of the conservative nature of Montgomery County that doesn’t normally align with free-spirited artists and writers. Artfeel, she added, was a place where everyone could come together and celebrate.
“I didn’t know any artists or creative people and Nickole came to me and said, ‘Let’s talk about art in The Woodlands and how it makes people feel,’” Hallaway recalled. “It started a movement where artists could be with other artists and like-minded people and it grew from there… it started snowballing.”
As to the closure, Hallaway said she she was “sitting on the fence,” about what to do, but came to the decision on Sunday, April 28, after assessing the terms of the restaurant’s lease and whether or not to extend it another five years. Most of the staff of the bar had gone to a wedding in Canada, which prevented a going away event, but Hallaway said she was especially grateful to her general manager as well as the staff and her loyal customers, who were like family.
“I have made lifelong friends. There are so many people who will always be a part of my life now,” she said. “Just the camaraderie of our community. I’m going to miss it.”