October 03, 2006
Laff Stop to relocate

It's goodbye West Gray and hello Waugh for the Laff Stop.

The Laff Stop started looking at options when someone else expressed interest in its space. The lease with Weingarten Realty expires Dec. 31.

"If we wanted to stay at our location, our rent was going to go up," said Vanessa Carlson, who handles marketing.

The comedy club has been a mainstay at the center on West Gray for 28 years. Pictures on the walls of comedians who have performed include Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres. The late Sam Kinison's piano is behind the stage.

"If you look at our walls, we have every legendary comedian you can possibly think of back when they performed at our club," Carlson said. "That's kind of the nostalgia that people have for the Laff Stop."

A high-visibility location near Allen Parkway in the Waugh Drive Retail Center at 526 Waugh Drive will open up an opportunity to market to area offices and residential developments. It is within two miles of the existing location. The main competitor - which also books talent with TV or movie credits - is the Houston Improv on the Katy Freeway outside Loop 610.


Weingarten Realty said a new lease has been signed for the space at the River Oaks Shopping Center but declined to disclose the tenant. Talk of possible negotiations with Barnes & Noble for a store at West Gray and Shepherd called part of the center's future into question, but a Weingarten spokesman said the company has no plans to redevelop the center at this time.

Waugh Drive between West Gray and Allen Parkway is another stretch of near-downtown real estate that's been pretty heavily underutilized in recent years. There's been a boom in townhouse development nearby, and a few new commercial properties, including the Laff Stop's new landlord, but given what an awesome location it is, there's still a lot of untapped potential. It's probably too much to hope that some of what eventually gets built there is pedestrian-friendly, but I'll say it anyway, just in case.

By the way, the old Laff Stop location is a block away and across the street from the River Oaks Theater. If that area is eventually subsumed by whatever grand designs Weingarten has for the River Oaks Shopping Center, then a fair amount of high-end retail and a couple of fancy-schmancy restaurants may be threatened as well. File it away for later and we'll see what happens.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 03, 2006 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack