Mike Amburn knows a lot about Wichita Falls nightlife. In fact, he has been directly involved in many of the bars, clubs, and dance halls in this city for decades. Today he is concentrating his considerable knowledge on his next project which is now located in the old Denim and Diamonds location on Kell Boulevard. The interior has recieved a complete overhaul with additional space for dancing, remodeled bar areas, multiple balconies and elevated VIP area, and a supersized, state of the art sound system. He is also split the space into two venues that can be transformed into one large space for the high-profile acts. “The space in the front will be a separate bar called The Boulevard Night Club and the space in the back will be called the Ashby Event Center,” The event center is able to seat about 400 people. The plan is to use this space for wedding receptions, parties, and even business meetings. Mike is also added a massive covered outdoor patio.
The name comes from the mixing of his two daughter’s names, Ashley and Abbey. Abbey helps Mike run and market all of his venues. It is most definitely a family business. His wife, RaLane, plans and decorates every venue he has opened over the past 20 years. Mike says that he couldn’t do it without his wife. “She has a knack for it,” he said with a smile. “I want to give her credit.”
Mike has been involved with the bar scene most of his life. It began when he worked his way through college as a bar back at the Officer’s Club on Sheppard Air Force Base. He later applied for a bartender’s job at the Seymour Highway Dance Company, which led to him becoming the manager of that club. “I had never bar tended a day in my life before that,” he said, “but somehow I made it through and ended up the manager.”
Mike found his niche in the industry when he started working for Ron Malone, the Cheyenne Cattle Company developer. Mike worked for Ron for 14 years managing bars all over the country. “I may be a small-town boy, but I made it in the big city,” Mike said. “I learned my trade well, and I decided to open my own place. I had $40,000 in savings and 5 credit cards with limits of $10,000 each that I used to open that place. It was Stage West, and it was a huge success,” he said. He later added a pool hall to his empire called West End that is still open today. Stage West stayed open 20 years, with Mike reinventing it to keep it relevant. Six months ago, it closed and Mike called that “one of the hardest things” he ever had to do. Stage West was his baby.
But Mike’s success didn’t stop there. He found another location and opened Whiskeyta Club which proved to be another feather in his hat. It has a laid back atmosphere unlike some of the dance halls he has owned. After Whiskeyta was up and running he had someone approach him to open a bar on Jacksboro Highway, and so Lone Star Tequila Bar and Dance Hall was born, another popular nightlife location.
Mike has some interesting stories from his years managing bars and clubs. Out of them all, he claims that one of his favorites involves Willie Nelson. When it came time to play, Willie’s trailer was surrounded by about 150 people and Mike was told that if Willie came out he would want to give a signature to everyone before coming in. That’s just the way Willie is. “So, I got a megaphone and went out and announced that Willie was in the building,” Mike said. “The crowd dispersed and only 20 fans remained. After he gave his signature to those 20 fans, Willie came in and played for 2 and a half hours. It was absolutely one of the most pleasant experiences I ever had, but everyone stayed seated and didn’t go to the bar to drink.” The bar barely broke even that night due to a lack in drink sales, but Mike claims that it was well worth the exposure and experience.
After more than three decades in the industry, Mike does not plan on slowing down. The Boulevard recently celebrated it’s Grand Opening. It will be “Top 40ish” with Thursday night set aside for college night.
With all these accolades, you would think that Mike would be prideful, but he gives the credit to God for his success. “I don’t believe in bragging, but I was able to take advantage of opportunities, and the Good Lord keeps putting them in front of me,” he explained. “God has blessed me in every way possible.”