Purple Rain, almost surely the state's largest nightclub at 43,500 square feet, is a bold endeavor for a small-ish border town like Texarkana.
The club, which opened in late June, is the latest in a string of attempts to revitalize downtown. Most recently, the much loved, but not so well attended, Cinema 218, a semi-upscale bar/small movie venue, had to close. But this time, combined with the development of loft-apartments and a couple of other late-night spots, Purple Rain might have a shot at sticking around.
“We're the largest attempt to rejuvenate downtown into an entertainment district, and there are some other venues following suit,” owner Clay Mitchell says. “There's been nothing done to this scale in this part of town, or in this town, period. This is really a first or second market nightclub. The other clubs here are fourth market. They're more honky tonk-type places, rather than nightclubs. We really consider ourselves to be Texarkana's first real nightclub.”
One thing that Mitchell boasts about is Purple Rain's diversity. With space abundant, the club is divided into three distinct areas.
“We have a dance venue, which we just call the club. There's also a live venue that we call the ‘live side,' or ‘Purple Rain Live,' and then we have the VIP area, or the ‘Red Room.' We cater to everybody,” Mitchell says.
The clientele is diverse, too. You're just as likely to see cowboy hats as brightly colored fitted hats cocked to the side. Purple Rain is even billed as the perfect place for ladies to wear “that little black dress.”
The club's size is an advantage and a disadvantage. It provides elbow room, but seems too big to ever be completely full.
The first room you encounter is the dance venue, which is the largest of the three. It's cavernous yet comfortable. Bars, attended by waitresses in short plaid skirts, run along the back and right sides of the room. There's a dance floor in the center, spiked with stripper poles (for ambience) and framed by two rows of ceiling-mounted fountains, water sprinkling downward (bathed in purple light of course). Bouncers stroll through the crowd in suits and the DJ looks on from a booth above the dance floor.
The live music area has the look of a dance hall, save its carpeted floors. Neon lights are the only light fixtures. It is equipped with another bar. Cover bands and independent acts take the stage, completely isolated from the dance club next door.
The VIP room is an eyebrow-raising attraction, at least for these parts. VIP hopefuls have to apply for membership, which costs $300 per year, or $20 per night. The room looms above the dance floor and is lavishly adorned with thick carpeting, semi-private booths (complete with zebra-skin-covered-couches), and four beds that provide additional seating.
The bar is stocked with top-shelf liquor, and all the noise from the rest of the club is blocked out to provide an intimate atmosphere.
“The VIP room is for people who want to get away from everybody,” Mitchell says. “It's about being pampered. We have an extensive wine list. We have an extensive champagne list including Dom Perignon and Cristal. Nobody else has that here in town. And it sells.”
Mitchell says that business, though up and down, is good. Club-goers seem to understand the challenges. April Price, a 25-year-old student living in Texarkana, likes what Purple Rain is trying to do.
“I think it's great. There are certain little groups that want to dress up and go out and have martinis, but that's a small part of Texarkana. So I don't know if it will work, but I do think that Texarkana needs a place like that,” Price says.
Walking from room to room, taking it all in, you get the feeling of a place experiencing growing pains and finding its niche in a small town. Mitchell plans on being around for a while.
“Once people are coming out here and having a good time, they'll forget about all those other rat holes where your feet are sticking to the floor.”