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AvantGarden Shows How a Dilapidated Historic Building Turns into a Venue for a Hip, Avant-Garde Bar and Arts Scene

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Turning a dilapidated historic building into a hip, avant-garde bar and arts scene in Houston's midtown/lower Westheimer neighborhood, Owner Mariana Lemesoff has seen her current dream business manifest through a few recreations beginning in 1996. AvantGarden hosts everything from live music, independent movie screenings, poetry readings, burlesque, comedy and art events to garner naming by the New York Times as one of the top must-visit spots in Houston.

The house, now 120 years old, was abandoned when Lemesoff purchased it. "A flock of pigeons made it their nest, flying in and out of one of its 40 then-broken windows," she details. She even remembers the name of the elderly man who sold it to her. Rescued from the demolition that had befallen older buildings around it, this former home where Howard Hughes once played was made into a venue for area residents and visitors to enjoy for the long term. Customers appreciate the older building's charm and also, Lemesoff says, "The sense that something unexpected and fun may happen at any time, as it often does."

AvantGarden has a front garden porch, a large back patio, and a bar on each of its two stories. It has a homey, antiquated charm with classy touches that makes it unique. The vegetation lends a green touch to the outside spaces while also providing privacy for their wide range of happening events.

Aside from hosting public and private events, AvantGarden is a popular location for weddings, Lemesoff tells us, particularly because it is not a wedding parlor. "It has the true character of a house used every day for 120 years," she notes. "The couples who are attracted to AvantGarden have a particular appreciation for the rustic beauty and unpolished dignity of the place." The venue has hosted fun themed and/or costumed weddings (where even the staff dressed the part) as well as more classic weddings. AvantGarden is currently a WeddingWire Couple's Choice 5-star winner (2015, 2016).

Then, there is what's called the "Houston Happy Hour" with friendly drink prices ranging from a low of $2 for domestic draft beer to $3 mixed drinks and $15 for a bottle of selected wines. Tasty homemade Sangria is also offered at $4. All served by, what Lemesoff says, is her "awesome hipster staff". Happy hour is made better by eating a few authentic Mexican tacos made fresh in the El Poloma taqueria food truck parked onsite.

About her business idea, Lemesoff exclaims, "I wanted to create an inspiring environment for the artistic and the bohemian crowd who don't fit in the clubby cookie-cutter bars. It definitely turned out this way!"

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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