June 21, 2021

In Old East Dallas, the Starlight Lounge cleans up and reopens as Charlie’s Star Lounge

The duo behind The Nines nightclub has leased the former Starlight Lounge building and reopened it as Charlie’s Star Lounge. The infamous East Dallas dive bar with a legendary following stuck around for decades before closing last year. Now, after extensive renovations, Charlie’s is a good option if you’re looking for a watering hole with parking spaces and a less chaotic vibe than nearby Deep Ellum.

For this new endeavor, Nines owner Allen Falkner partnered with his bar’s general manager, Corey Howe, who is also the front man for local rock band Dead Flowers. A year ago, they expected to open their new bar on weekends and make renovations during the week. But bars were ordered closed during the pandemic, and the building needed more updates than they originally thought. The floors, plumbing, ceiling, electricity, and bar all had to be updated.

“I tried to keep as much of the old Starlight as I could,” Howe says. “I like an old dive bar that reminds me of my grandfather’s garage. But if it was changed, it was for health department reasons.”

Local chef and hip-hop DJ Julio Cordonnier poses with an empanada at his home in Euless.
Co-owner Corey Howe stands behind the bar at Charlie’s Star Lounge.
Co-owner Corey Howe stands behind the bar at Charlie’s Star Lounge.(Lynda M. González / Staff Photographer)

“We wanted to clean it up but not gentrify it,” Falkner says. “Everybody is still welcome here. We tried to make it a dive bar, but not too dive-y and not too kitsch.”

The place is still a dark dive bar, but the jukebox and pool table have been replaced by a dance floor and vintage arcade games like Street Fighter II. The new ceiling is made with gorgeous tin from an old hotel in Kansas — Howe discovered the material at a flea market — and the once-hideous bathrooms are now shockingly nice and clean.

The sign that said “No sleeping on the toilet” has been removed, but that rule still applies. Falkner and Howe insist that their bar is inclusive, but they have made some new rules in the interest of legally operating a successful business. The bar no longer opens in the morning — it opens at 1 p.m. on weekends and 5 p.m. during the week — and the area behind the building is no longer a makeshift restroom.

Also, patrons will now be asked to leave if they lose control of their bladders inside the bar, as one Starlight regular was surprised to learn on April 24, when Charlie’s had its grand opening. Furthermore, Charlie’s checks I.D.’s and will not serve you if you are already inebriated.

Cocktail bar Hide is moving to Lowest Greenville. It had been temporarily closed in Deep Ellum since June 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A frozen drink served at The Charlie’s Star Lounge, a dive bar opening soon in East Dallas.
A frozen drink served at The Charlie’s Star Lounge, a dive bar opening soon in East Dallas.(Lynda M. González / Staff Photographer)

As far as booze, expect the usual mix of beer — Starlight regulars will be pleased to know that there is plenty of Natural Light and Bud Light — as well as cocktails you would find at most other semi-respectable dive bars. But the frozen cherry limeades with vodka are delicious and stiff, and Charlie’s offers a $20 Old Fashioned made with Garrison Brothers Single Barrel as a gentrification joke.

But that joke might be referencing a new trend. With Charlie’s and The Peak Inn, the East Dallas neighborhood bar from Adair’s co-owner Joel Morales, we might be seeing the beginnings of some Deep Ellum business owners preferring to start new ventures slightly outside of the busiest entertainment district in North Texas.

“A lot of people are deterred from going into Deep Ellum because of the lack of parking,” Howe says. “It can be too much. There’s just so many people, and especially in light of COVID-19, I think people feel more comfortable having a little more room.”

Charlie’s opened with a live DJ, and Howe says to expect more of the same, as well as live music from local punk rock bands. If all goes well, they are also planning to offer food by eventually adding a shipping container kitchen in the parking lot.

And the story behind the bar’s new name is complicated. Charlie’s Star Lounge nods to the original Starlight but references Howe’s cat and Falkner’s real first name, Charles. Their “Charlie” mascot is also inspired by a fictional character named Ray Jackson from the Jean-Claude Van Damme action film, Bloodsport.

Charlie’s Star Lounge is located at 4319 Main Street, Dallas. charlieslounge.com.

L-R: Cheapsteaks owners Ed Laster, John Jay Meyers and Jeff Biehler inside the old Stonedeck Pizza Pub where their new restaurant Cheap Steaks will eventually open, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in Dallas. Cheap Steaks will cater to steak fans and music lovers as they will have an indoor and outdoor stage at their restaurant-venue.
The front patio of Charlie’s Star Lounge, a dive bar opening soon in East Dallas and photographed on Thursday, April 22, 2021.
The front patio of Charlie’s Star Lounge, a dive bar opening soon in East Dallas and photographed on Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Lynda M. González / Staff Photographer)