Before we moved to Coupland, we discovered that lots of people had heard about the Coupland Dancehall & Tavern. Since then, it has become obvious that the Coupland Inn, along with its restaurant, and the Coupland Dancehall is a big part of Coupland. I wanted to learn more so I asked the current owners, Tim & Barbara Worthy, if I could interview them and get a few pictures for the Coupland Times. They graciously agreed and I visited with them in the dancehall on May 16. I was also greeted by their old dog, Rufus, who sings when the trains go by. Good dog! I’ll be posting a video of that soon.
In preparing this story, I decided that the previous history of this landmark building was worthy of a separate story, perhaps even a series of stories. It has been done before but apparently it has been a while and I intend to give it a fresh perspective. So for now, I will just skip over the drug store, the grocery store, the previous dance halls, the doctor and dentist offices, and all the other iterations of this prominent feature of Coupland and bring you up to the early 1990’s.
The Worthy’s had a marina on Lake Travis. The water level was up and down a lot. It hurt the business and was very frustrating so they began looking around for other opportunities. They had always liked the entertainment business, especially dance halls like the old Silver Dollar in Austin. Tim says they found Coupland by accident. The dance hall was closed but they thought it had potential. They bought the dance hall from local resident Becky Sutton. They acquired the inn and restaurant later in a tax sale.
They worked on repairs and improvements for several months before opening. Business was good but after more than a decade had passed, Tim and Barbara were ready to retire. They sold the place but a few years later they had to foreclose on the buyer when he stopped making payments. They got the place back in 2011. Tim said a lot of damage had been done in four years. From what I gather, those owners did not have a lot of credibility in the community either. Karma will get you every time.
With regard to retirement, Tim said, “She was bored and I was happy.” Barbara agreed but added that she was bored because she could never be confident in making plans because payments were often late and eventually stopped altogether.
It took a year to get the place put back together properly.The property is always for sale but they have continued to invest in it. They have some renovations planned for the inn, where they will be adding two bathrooms.
Business is good right now. Tim says their prices are below the Austin average. He also says they can bring in big acts but that they are expensive. He feels that homegrown acts are better overall but acknowledges that big acts bring new attention. Over the years, many big names have played at the tavern, including Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaugh, Jimmy Heap, and the Bellamy Brothers. They are especially proud that they don’t sell out the dance floor. It is only for dancing and you can dance right next to the performers, whether they are the big names, the rising stars, or the reliable standards who love playing in this kind of venue.
A lot of interesting things have happened over the years. Barbara told me a story about a couple that sneaked into the caboose next door a couple years ago for an intimate rendezvous. That caboose is next to the historic Coupland Depot, both of which are owned by the Coupland Civic Organization. Apparently red wasps were the only security in place but it was sufficient. I didn’t ask for the details but I’m sure they would have been interesting and educational.
Barbara said they were running a special for the upcoming Saturday night (now past). For $175 you got a room for two in the B&B, dinner of your choice (excluding drinks), entrance into the dancehall, and breakfast for two in the dining room Sunday morning. Tim says its a lot cheaper then a DWI ticket. Can’t argue with that. Of course, many of the locals can just walk home but Coupland is pretty dark at night and lots of critters are out and about so I wouldn’t do it without a flashlight.
Barbara manages the official Facebook page for the “Old Coupland Inn & Dancehall.” It’s a great way to get the latest news. They are currently hiring and had this ad on Facebook: “HELP WANTED: We are looking for good part time help in the kitchen and dancehall. I have 6 graduating in two weeks and will be leaving for college. I wish them luck but will miss our kids, they have really done a good job in the kitchen getting that food out!!! We would like for some mature people to apply as I am tired of trainging and having them leave. ha. Surely there are some older adults that need a part time job? We will hire the young people if they apply and seem to want to work and be trained. Have them call me at 512-431-9584. Tim would also like to train another fry cook and steak cook so we could take off sometimes, we have been hitting it for almost two years with NO time off. HELP!!!! Pretty hard on old people.”
We talked for a bit about the changes in Coupland related to the new city government that is just getting organized. Tim is cautiously optimistic but he has concerns about government in general. He has noted that people often go into government service with the best of intentions, wanting to change the system but instead being changed by the system. As one of the major tax payers in the city, I’m sure they will take an active interest in the new City of Coupland. Barbara noted how last year the Coupland school district had a major event catered in Taylor. She contacted them and asked why they weren’t spending OUR local tax dollars locally. She was happy to report that this year the event will be catered at the Coupland Inn & Dancehall. Citizen involvement is absolutely essential to good government.
Tim took me on a tour of the inn and the dancehall. He & Barbara live in the inn three days a week. The inn has seven rooms around a central sitting room. He also showed me where the doctor’s office used to be. Tim says they had to work to reduce some of the weight of the inn to reduce stress on the support structures. Everything is in good shape now. I was very impressed by what I saw. The decor was welcoming and the rooms looked very comfortable.
I just love stained glass! This is a divider in the sitting room.
Have a seat!
No, wait. Sit here!
This makes me feel sleepy!
The wash basin and the picture are a very nice touch.
This is just one corner of a very large bathroom. You have to wait your turn but with two showers and two sinks, couples and families can save a bit of time.
I asked Tim if they had ever seen a ghost in the inn. He says he has never seen one . . . except for the ghost in a picture shot by someone else outside the inn. He calls it “Cowboy waitin’ on a ride back to heaven.” Looking at the photo, I’d swear he is holding a guitar in his lap. Ghost hunters have been to the inn and got a few pictures of orbs. I wonder if anyone has tried to get any EVP recordings?
There is a nice gallery of artists and VIP’s in the back of the dance hall. I was surprised to see a photo of Clint Eastwood among them. Now that I know more, I guess I shouldn’t have been.
In doing some research for this story, I found this write-up about the dancehall on honkytonktx.com: “The beautiful hand carved bar dates back to 1886 and has bullet holes and buck shot in it to prove it. Since La Casa Grande Ballroom occupied the hall in 1936, great music has been performed by Chris Wall, Johnny Bush, Hank Thompson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary P. Nunn, Johnny Gimble, Don Walser, Johnny Rodriguez, Tommy Alverson and others. A great family style restaurant adjoins the hall and is well handled by Barbara Worthy, a fine lady with class that dates back to the original times of this great hall. Don’t miss a real true Texas Dance Hall and Inn. Tell them we said to say “Hey”.
Some great events are coming up. Barbara told me they are getting ready to start teen dances in the summer on Thursday nights. It should be noted that they don’t allow minors into the dance hall on weekends without a parent under 18, unless it is a teen activity. Normally there must be one adult per three minors and the minors must have ID and must be tagged. Barbara says that their insurance will not allow minors without parents or some other responsible party.
On June 8, beginning at 11 AM, there will be approximately 150 Ford Model A cars coming to Coupland for a bag lunch. The public is invited to bring the family out to meet the drivers and see these beautiful old cars. That should be a very cool sight!
June 9 is set aside for senior graduation with the Debonaires providing the entertainment. Barbara said the dancehall will be open from 7:30 to 10:30 PM. Folks can throw a party with their family and friends. They can bring in snacks and light food and reserve a table but must bring their own plates, forks, etc. The bar will be open for parents and other adults. Minors will be banded and have an X put on their hands. Barbara stressed that drinking by minors will not be permitted. She says they have quite a few tables reserved already so call her at 512-431-9584 if you want to reserve a table for your group.
Coupland is in a part of Williamson County that does not normally allow the sale of mixed drinks but the dancehall recently obtained a license to operate a private club. Club members can purchase mixed drinks. Bottoms up!
In true entrepreneurial spirit, the Worthy’s don’t think small. Tim and Barbara have ideas to do more things like music festivals and farmers markets in town. They hope to bring in some Quinceañera
business. They want to set up dance contests and dance classes. There is a growing film industry in the the Austin area and Tim says they are considering a weekly television show, in the tradition of Austin City Limits.
On a side note, two television commercials were recently shot in Coupland. One was done by Ford Trucks in front of the St. Peter’s Church. The other was done by Gillette, featuring local artist Wells Mason. The Ford commercial is airing now.
You can check out their website for more information and images.
It’s easy to overlook great resources in your own town so take advantage of the opportunity to have a great meal right here! Got some relatives coming to visit that you don’t really want to put up? Book a room for them in the Inn. They will have a great time and will think you’re awesome. Everybody wins!
Stewart Dale Spencer