Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Club J II - Fort Worth circa 1995


In 1995 the opportunity presented itself to reopen Club J in the DFW Metroplex right near the cultural district off Fort Worth. Rinehart, Speers, Curlee and Locks had all relocated after leaving HPU to the DFW area and Speers started working as a youth/college minister at a small church near downtown Fort Worth.

“I was getting my graduate degree at Baylor but had become friends with a group of TCU students,” Speers said. “Because of my history in helping start the original club it was a natural thing to have discussions about re-opening it in the DFW area somewhere. We still had the lights and most of the equipment and a group of high school and TCU students ready to help put it together. All we needed was the place.”

Trinity Fellowship provided the perfect location when pastor John Paul Jackson asked Speers to take the position as youth and college minister.Sadly, Jackson died suddenly in 2014. Without his passion for reaching the lost and his openness to God doing things "outside the box" Club J Fort Worth would have never happened.

A Christian night club in that area of the city would be a perfect outreach tool for the church and the church had a large “upper room” that was simply perfect for something like Club J. It was a perfect setup.

Club J II was smaller in scale and in operations than the original 1991 club since it was located in the back of an existing church. Less work was necessary to get it up and running but there was still some work to be done including building a DJ booth, installing lights and sound equipment and ripping up the old flooring. People like Scott Rinehart, Michael Harris, Katherine Cohen, Wendy Goshen, Lee Savitz, Shana Savitz, Maury Potts, Dallas Perry, Kasey VanY plus many other college and high school students provided all of the labor.

“Yea, just like the first club, we had to redo the floors, paint everything, install the lights and sound system and build a massive DJ booth but it only took us a few months instead of the year it took to get the first one in Brownwood open,” Speers said. “Plus it was so neat to be right downtown. You could see the skyline right out the back windows and our proximity to TCU made it a perfect way to reach out to those students. One of the coolest things was how the music would be booming from the outside and the club lights would be flashing in sync in the large old windows.”

“I remember long days of scaffolding and painting the walls black and getting excited about the opening,” Katherine Cohen remembered. “Ben and Robin Paisley rocking the house. Our high school kids from church meeting Jesus and then bringing their friends who then also met him!”

Though it had only been five years since the original club was opened in Brownwood, the Christian nightclub scene had already started moving away from “dance” oriented clubs and more to the live concert or hang out type of venue. Clubs had started opening up all over the nation including the Dallas area with the opening of places like “The Door” in Deep Elm. Dancing was still part of the overall structure, but Club J II focused on providing a variety of concerts and events. Either way hundreds of young people from all over the DFW area came to check it out and the club was always loud, fun and full of energy.

“I remember that we were breaking the mold of the time and would explain it to people by saying it wasn't a 'Christian club' but 'a club run by Christians'. That's not an unusual thing now, but at the time it was radical!” Cohen added.
Probably the biggest event was the Judah CD release concert/party held at the club in the spring of 1996. At the time, Judah was a very popular Christian rock band with TCU students. They had a new CD coming out that year and Club J was chosen as the venue to showcase and launch the new record with a live concert. Over 300 students showed up that night and the place was packed.

“I remember feeling the floor go up and down as the crowd danced and jumped to the music,” Speers said. “I am certain we were breaking all kinds of city codes! But it was one of the greatest nights in the history of either Club J locations. Judah got a big chance to share the good news of Christ with hundreds of young people that night.”

Club J was located in a run down part of the cultural district of Fort Worth. It gave life to an area chopped full of empty store fronts, darkness and old buildings. Today, that area is known as “7th” and is full of nightspots, restaurants, bars and shopping. It’s the hotspot of the city.

As with the original Brownwood club, Club J II in Fort Worth also made a lasting impact on the lives of many young people in the short time the place was open. High school kids, college kids and other young adults really embraced the idea of a safe place in the middle of the big city to get away.

Long time friendships were forged that remain today, and most importantly, others came face to face with a God that does crazy things like Club J to show them His love. The full impact will never be known, but the hard work the entire volunteer staff put in will never be forgotten and certainly those that offered their time to help make it a success will never forget it.

“I think Club J had as much an impact on the workers as on the youth who came,” said Wendy Goshen a TCU student at the time.

After a quick but eventful run, the Fort Worth Club J was forced to shut down after the building it was in was sold and the church had to relocate. A small crowd gathered for one final night as the lights on Club J were turned off forever.

“At that time it was sad, but I also knew it was over,” Speers said. “I was moving on, other options for Christians were popping up and God had done with Club J what He wanted to do. I know we made a difference in many lives. It certainly did in mine.”


Twenty years later, Christian clubs are now the norm across America. Club J was well ahead of its time. From coast to coast, nearly every large city in the country now boasts some form of Christian based, drug free, night club entertainment for youth and college students. Club J is now long in the past but lives were changed, the Christian subculture has broadened its reach and Christian young adults have now enjoyed two decades of having some nightclub fun of their own. Christians doing a little dancing to some groovin’ tunes is simply no big deal now.

The building Club J was in is still there and another small church has been operating there all these years. But that entire area is now known as "West-7th" and it's now one of the hot night spots in the entire DFW area. Seems Club J might have been somewhat of a trend setter a decade or so early

“It really blows my mind that it has been twenty years since the whole thing went from a radical idea to reality. I remember them starting to tear down the old buildings in that area. Would have never thought that place would would be what it is now. My wife and I just went and saw a movie at a dinner theater down there about 3 blocks from the back side of what was once the club,” Speers stated. “God does crazy things sometimes. Club J was certainly one of them.”


I have too many thoughts to say too much and most of them I put into the above story. But, I am truly amazed when I look back at what God did through just a willing group of kids. We were just kids you know. So many of you guys involved in both clubs have now become life long friends. Some of you that were students were reached out to are also now friends on Facebook and the like. God is good. As I get older I cherish looking back on crazy, cool things God did and I am so humbled that He would even allow me to be a part of it. In the end if only a few lives were changed than all of the hard work (and it was!) was all worth it for both locations. When we all step into eternity maybe we will meet even more. For now, this reminds me and hopefully does all of you too, to go find the next “crazy” thing He wants us to be a part of….crazy as in working in the church nursery or something!

Michael Harris throwing himself into the wall at the FW club will never be forgotten….

Fav memory.... bouncing around in the mosh pit to Jesus Freak by DC Talk with Jef, Brian, Chris, Bob, Dominc and the gang. Me at age 15/16 just under 100lbs, against at least 5 big guys. Oh, the fun days.

It's been fun remembering things - like the angels on the roof, and never pet a burning dog, and I still say "bye bye" instead of bye (though not in your 'ba, bye' way!) because of you.

Wow! Great stories, everyone. Sadly, I only visited Club J Fort Worth once (since I lived out of town then). I remember it being a fun place that was loud, brightly colored even in the dark, and full of life and energy. I think Club J. had as much an impact on the workers as on the youth who came. Great memories! And, long live the killer utensils.

I ran into Vinny when I lived in Carrollton and he was doing great at the time. His life had truly changed. They thought the gun was not loaded and it discharged accidentally.

Kat I remember that kid too. Brings tears to my eyes to know God used us to make an ETERNAL difference. Motivates me to continue to do the same now at 40!!!

1 comment:

  1. What a great post about a great time and a great step of faith. God is truly faithful! It will not be until we all get to Heaven that we really know the impact Club J had on people, both those who checked it out, and those who served there. What a gift to be a part of that. Love, to all you who are reading this. I miss you all! -Clint