How Alan Keys Revived Reno's Chop Shop, and What He Thinks Deep Ellum Needs Now
Around Deep Ellum, Alan Keys is best known as "Alan from Reno's"...the guy who threw a hell of a party for many years at Reno's Chop Shop, bringing a pretty raucous and heathy-sized rock crowd in. Keys networked hard to get a lot of national touring acts to stop by for a drink or two as well: Avenged Sevenfold, Drowning Pool, Seether, Shinedown, Sid from Slipknot (who DJed an afterparty there), Corey Taylor from Slipknot & Stone Sour, and so on. Actor Dolph Lundgren did a casting call at the bar and used Reno's as the bar in the movie he ws making. Prison Break also did a casting call there.
Keys also instilled an updated look to the place as well. But he's has actually been involved in a stack of Deep Ellum clubs of all kinds; from places to dance to places to just get a little sloshy and talk it up with the neighborhood wildlife.
Alan Keys is taking it a little easier nowadays, following a knee injury and a gig in the world of business-casual, but he's far from being completely done helping out, and even farther from being forgotten for his huge contributions to local music in Deep Ellum.
Before Reno's, you were running a place up on the corner across from Cafe Brazil. What club was that again?
Club 2826. I started in the Deep Ellum scene there with that club in 1999. Started out as the door guy, and after three months worked my way up to GM. At our busiest point we were running over 600 people through the doors nightly and sales were amazing. We were the first club to bring in Billy the Kid to do live remotes when he was with Y95.
And were there a couple of other stops along the way before you ended up at Reno's?
Next I worked at Paulies Social Club right next to Elm Street Bar. Then Club Indigo on Main Street. After Indigo I went over to Reno's.
I remember Reno's in the very beginning. It was cool than and all, but you seemed to make a big difference when you came aboard. You sort of lit up the room.
When I first started at Reno's they were barely able to pay rent, much less a salary. So, I started working for a percentage of sales instead of salary. That motivated me to make the bar successful at a rapid pace. And once I was able to start collecting a check, I made sure the musicians had a venue to do the same. We updated our sound system and made the live room more inviting, while still keeping cost low.
Catch me up since leaving Renos. What have you been up to? That's where you and I started to lose track for a while.
I left Reno's due to creative differences. Right after I left I injured my knee really bad. An issue that I am still going through surgeries to repair. After that I went to school to study IT. I earned several great Microsoft Certifications and a lot of hands-on training. Once I finished my training I was able to find an awesome job with a company called Grand Homes. I've been with them for over a year. I never thought I'd enjoy the corporate world, but I really enjoy this job. I like helping the people I work with.
I'm sure you have more than one iron in the fire right now. Are you up to anything at all that applies to the local music community?
Nothing too serious at this point. I have been talking to someone in the Plano area about working with them on several venues. Due to my personal and medical issues I am not able to be a hands-on type of guy like I used to be.
How did you end up interested in DE clubs and live music, anyway?
I got interested in the scene when I started working at Club 2826. I would sit outside the Dance club and started talking to all the rock musicians. One of the first bands I met was BIG IRON. I started talking to Dan and he introduced me to people and the scene.
Are we truly a community in Deep Ellum? Are there things we need to work on more to become more cohesive?
I think we a definitely are a divided community. We need to work harder on bring all types of music to every area. For Example--Deep Ellum is kind of typecast for metal and hard rock. Downtown is for hip-hop and Top 40. Uptown, you think of dance. We need to do a better job of musical diversity throughout the area. I remember when Deep Ellum had every form of music within a three block area. Every band and every venue was always packed because people were able to stay in one area, but still be able to find many different forms of music.