- Linda Romero
The Mix has always been two bars: a professional-friendly happy hour spot that caters to folks that need to be home in time to get a solid eight before they're back to the grind — Monday through Friday, ad nausea — and the late-night dive that is always hopping at last call, no matter what band is playing — and always sans cover.
It's the joint where, truly, no one is not accepted because there's never a majority of a certain group or crowd there to discourage you from getting sloshed while shooting pool, throwing darts, shooting the bull or just scoping out the bands that run the gamut from complete and total shit to impeccable and solidly crafted (the only two kinds of bands there should ever be).
It's a hub of activity for any kind of mess you want to get into. Former-owner Daniel "Danny" Clift and his staff have played host at one time or another to any band in this town that has ever been worth a damn in the last 20 years, and a few that haven't been.
Opened in 1996 by Clift and former partner Theresa Mankins, The Mix has changed very little since its early days. Clift, who handed over the keys to the new owners on October 15, has always considered the bar his second home and the bar staff his children, many of which have, collectively, put in decades behind the L-shaped altar where the woes of thousands of patrons — artists and scholars, bums and the bourgeois — have been drowned.
As San Antonio prides itself on being a working-class town — a city of reputable grit with a lack of pomp and affectation — The Mix is a perfect edifice for the people it serves. Unlike our great white neighbor to the north (Austin), in which you'd be hard-pressed to find a business older than the 20-something free spirit taking your order from behind the counter, The Mix has regulars that remember where they were the day Lennon, Kennedy, or even The Kingfish, Huey Long, was shot.
So, who exactly is taking over, and what is the impetus for Danny Clift taking a backseat?
"There was a combination of things. I've been doing [The Mix] for 18 years and I've been in the business for 29 years, so, one is it's just kinda taken a toll on me, just doing it so long, and it's not that I don't love what I do, because I do, but the rent went up substantially, which happened to everyone surrounding me, as well," Clift said.
"My rent went up over 50 percent a couple years ago, that and there being 12 bars within four blocks and no more parking ... a lot of those bars would come and go ... they'd have crazy drink specials and I would kinda have to match it and it would hurt my bottom line. There were a lot of things I wanted to do in the bar," which, Clift explained, included raising the ceilings, putting in a kitchen, fixing the bathrooms, expanding the patio, etc., "but just didn't have the money to do it. I have always been into rock 'n' roll bars, y'know, barebones, straight-ahead rock 'n' roll venues. I could continue to go as I am, but there's no way to know if I could continue to make it work with the additional hike in rent and the continuing competition."
So, what of the new guys taking over?
"These guys came in and they're keeping everybody on staff and keeping the bar going the way it is, so, they're going to keep the heart and soul of The Mix the same. At least that's what they've told me, and I believe it to be true."
Eric Hanken is owner of The Local Bar and operates Bauhaus Media Group and will oversee the finances and other boring stuff at The (New) Mix. Steve Mahoney, no stranger to bar operations as he already owns and operates Blue Box, George's Keep and the recently opened Francis Bogside, will be overseeing day-to-day operations, and Blayne Tucker, attorney and founder of the Maverick Music Festival, will function as the promotions, marketing and booking manager.
When asked about the continuity of The Mix's vibe and aesthetic, Tucker remarked, "The main condition of me coming on board was that, if we're going to do this, it's gonna continue to be The Mix and that we keep that institutional foundation, and respect The Mix as a landmark ... this isn't going to be a cocktail bar."