by Eric Sandler, Culture Map
When Houston’s weather turns from regular “hot” to full on “blast furnace,” finding a pool to cool off can be about the only way anyone can maintain their sanity. While they’re easy to find in the suburbs, apartment dwellers in the city’s urban core start contemplating extreme measures in the quest for relief — for example, booking an expensive spa treatment at the Marriott Marquis just to float the Texas-shaped lazy river.
A newly opened bar wants to change that. The El Segundo Swim Club is the pool bar that’s ready to offer Houstonians a place to relax and cool off. Located in the Second Ward near the corner of Navigation and Lockwood, the property features a 1,300-square foot swimming pool as well as cabanas and lounge chairs — everything a person needs for a little fun in the sun. A high fence around the bar ensures that patrons aren’t subject to prying eyes from passersby.
Owner Matthew Healey originally built the pool as a place for him and his friends to hang out, but he saw the potential for others to enjoy it. To realize his vision, he turned to local designer Gin Braverman of gin design group, the acclaimed local design firm behind a number of bars and restaurants including Axelrad, Public Services Wine & Whisky, and Goode Company Kitchen & Cantina. Braverman’s design takes its inspiration from the work of Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian landscape artist known for his innovative public spaces; the project seeks to channel a little of a Rio in the ’70s vibe.
“We want to create something fun and unpretentious,” Healey said when he announced the project in February. “We’re creating a little oasis just off the beaten path. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Judging by a recent visit, Healey and Braverman have accomplished their goals. The overall layout has a hip, artsy feel that’s vaguely reminiscent of Axelrad, if someone swapped the hammocks for a place to swim. While the pool itself isn’t large enough for something like swimming laps, its broad shallow areas are perfect for laying around or taking a quick dip to cool off. It’s certainly large enough for individual groups of friends to claim an area without being on top of their neighbors.
Cocktails created by acclaimed local bartender Chris Frankel provide additional refreshment. Riffs on a paloma, a Pimm’s cup, and a vodka cocktail with lemon, raspberry, and coconut water are available in small (two servings, $18) and large (four to five servings, $36) formats. Canned beers ($4-$6), house wines ($10 glass/$36 bottle) are also available. Really want to make a splash? Splurge on a bottle of Veuve Cliquot or Veuve Cliquot Rose for $150.
Currently, the plan is to be open on Friday afternoons and during the day on Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer; the occasional night swim will also be scheduled. A day pass costs $20. Hard core pool lovers can pony up for a season pass that’s good through the end of September for $100. As of press time, Healey was still working on whether it would be possible for groups to rent one of the two cabanas for the day (they’re currently first come, first serve).
Still to be determined are decisions like how many additional cabanas to add and what other landscaping needs to be done on the property. That work will be ongoing throughout the summer, but, even without additional improvements, El Segundo has a lot to offer. Expect it to be one of this summer’s coolest hotspots.