A quaint retro dreamland in the heart of Crestview will go dark this weekend, when the Violet Crown Clubhouse hosts its last events before closing permanently Sunday.
Mike Lavigne and partner Kelly Chappell (Galaxy Cafe, Top Notch) opened their vintage clubhouse — a neighborhood hang for kids of all ages and the young at heart — after a three-and-a-half-year run. An unnamed wine bar and bottle shop will take its place, Lavigne said.
Neighborhood residents Lavigne and Chappell opened the space that resembled a 1950s diner in 2019 in the Arlan’s shopping center in North Austin’s Crestview neighborhood.
Packed with vintage arcade video games and equipped with both popcorn and frosé machines, Violet Crown Clubhouse was a popular hangout for neighborhood families. The bar/community center/clubhouse hosted programming that appealed to fans of both Raffi and the Rolling Stones.
Lavigne said that his and Chappell’s passion project wasn’t able to bring in the money needed to maintain adequate staffing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I get it. It’s expensive to live in Austin, but I didn’t wanna raise prices any more. If you charge any more than what I was charging, you gotta make the place nice,” Lavigne said with a laugh. “But it was never a money-making thing; it was a community thing.”
The pandemic also gave the owners a sense of purpose and the community a gathering place. With its outdoor music programming and family-friendly vibes, the Violet Crown Clubhouse was a hub for neighborhood families to foster community in a time of virus anxiety and many outdoor events.
“For a lot of folks, it was their only access to live music for a couple of years,” said Lavigne, who also works as a public affairs consultant.
The diverse programming might range from drag queen story time in the morning to a brass band in the afternoon and a country act at night.
“I was so proud. Just to get a little taste of what Eddie Wilson must have felt like standing in the middle of the Armadillo back in the day,” Lavigne said of the building that also offered a satellite home for church, school and Girl Scouts activities. “It was pretty cool to see the diversity of use of the place, and that was always the plan.”
The Violet Crown Clubhouse is hosting its final events Thursday through Sunday, concluding with a performance by Finger Pistol on Sunday afternoon followed by Austin Silent Disco from 7 p.m. until late.
Lavigne, who also is a partner in Outer Heaven Disco Club in East Austin, said he’s proud of what the clubhouse offered their neighborhood. He added that the Violet Crown won’t be the last of his entertainment ventures in Austin.
“I don’t look back in sadness. I’m excited about moving on,” Lavigne said. Besides: “Getting to play Ms. Pac-Man whenever I wanted was basically a childhood dream.”