New Mercer Street aims to keep dance hall tradition alive

While it may have closed its doors for good last month, owners of the Mercer Street Dance Hall are preparing for a comeback in the near future.

A new facility, located on a parcel of land between Dripping Springs and Wimberley on Ranch Road 12, will run under the same brand, name, image and love for music.

“The new location will be versatile and will make better use of the overall space,” said Nick Dotin, co-owner of the Mercer Street Dance Hall. “We will still host the same type of music people know us by and we will keep that level of talent.”

But the Mercer Street Dance Hall, which was in operation for five years, was a newcomer in the world of dance halls, a long standing Hill Country tradition that has its roots with German Settlers in the mid-1800s.

Chris Harkness, promotions manager for Mercer Street, said the challenge was to have the aesthetic of other dance halls in the area which have been in operation for over 100 years, an attempt to integrate with the history of the Hill Country.

“We accomplished this goal at the last hall and we are looking to have the same traditional look with the new location while adding some improvements along the way,” Harkness said. “We can be proud of providing that historical dance hall feel, but we need to keep that momentum going.”

The technology revolution of the last decade has indirectly affected people’s entertainment practices, something Dotin said is always the challenge of opening a dance hall.

With services like HBO, Netflix, music streaming services and the internet, entertainment funds can typically be spent in the comfort of one’s home. Keeping the dance hall tradition is not only an important one for Harkness and Dotin, but one vital to physical communication and enjoyment.

“The dance hall business is a struggle,” Dotin said. “You can never leave your house and be entertained for hours. That is why the quality of music has to be there. You’re competing against all types of businesses all the time.”

Despite profit margins being thin within the first five years of business, Dotin said the labor of love and opportunity to give back to the community is enough to keep the dancehall alive.

The new building will feature a centered stage and a roughly 1500 square foot dance floor, improved acoustics with the same Mercer Street feel the community has enjoyed for years.

Dotin said he is hopeful the new building will be open by December, or a little before if the process runs smoothly.

“We’ve had tremendous support from our community, which has been incredible to see,” Dotin said. “People come to Mercer and feel safe. It’s an environment where you can enjoy great music, a drink, but ultimately, feel safe with a community you know and supports what you do. We will continue that reputation.”

The Mercer Street Dance Hall gofundme page has raised over $13,000 in a month, an effort by the Dripping Springs community to keep the tradition alive.

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