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Midnight Rodeo dancehall a smoldering ruin after early-morning fire

Midnight Rodeo had been closed since 2019, but inside it was like it "had never closed," city officials say.

SAN ANTONIO — Firefighters worked for several hours to put out a massive fire at the former dancehall Midnight Rodeo Wednesday morning, first arriving around 4:30 a.m. as smoke was billowing out of the business. 

The San Antonio Fire Department said it's possible the fire started around 11 p.m. Tuesday or 12 a.m. Wednesday. They also said there is evidence of homelessness in the building, and while no one was injured in the blaze, city officials said it spotlights the importance of housing assistance programs

Because the flames spread quickly, fire crews spent most of the time battling the fire defensively. In an update at 8 a.m., SAFD Chief Charles Hood said the building was stable and there was no damage to neighboring buildings.

"What's left of [the building] is stable. We were able to protect the exposure, which was a bingo hall. There was no danger to the bingo hall," Chief Hood said.

A worsening reputation

Midnight Rodeo was loved by many San Antonians for decades. It closed its doors in 2019, but city officials said the building was housed the popular nightlife spot had been on their radar as a growing nuisance—to the tune of hundreds of complaints from neighbors.

"That's what kind of triggered the DART team to get involved and start that process of working with the owner to say, ‘Hey, we've got to do something with this facility,’” said District 10 City Councilman Clayton Perry.

Perry is referring to the city’s Dangerous Assessment Response Team, a group tasked with going after the “worst of the worst” properties across the city.

Assistant City Attorney Eric Burns leads the DART team, and says they came out to inspect the building off the 12300 block of Nacodoches just a few weeks ago.

“We were concerned with the fact that it was unsecured," Burns said. "There were a lot of fires that were happening inside. We had a lot of oversize vehicles that were carrying hazardous materials or unsafe materials parking here at long hours and multiple days."

It's somewhat ironic that we were going to talk to them about some of the concerns we had, and then this morning this happened,” he added.

'Like a hurricane went through that place'

Burns said when they went to inspect the dancehall a few weeks ago, they noticed nothing had been removed in the years after Midnight Rodeo officially closed its doors in 2019.

“It was like the business had never closed,” said Burns. “The dance floors were still the same… there were still liquor bottles with liquor in them.”

Burns said the owner of Midnight Rodeo told his team the property owner wouldn’t allow him to go back in and retrieve what was left behind. Among the remnants of the once-bustling dancehall: furniture, documents and valuables, providing visual evidence of its popularity over the last 30 years. 

It looked like a hurricane went through that place, and I bet there is 10,000 vinyl records lying around in there,” said Perry, who also accompanied the DART team on its visit a few weeks ago.

Now, that history is nothing but a mangled mess of metal and debris after a fast-moving fire completely destroyed the building and everything in it.

“I made a few laps around that dance hall in there myself,” said Perry. “To a lot of people, this is an icon here, and it's sad to see it get closed down and end up like this.

Before the fire Wednesday morning, Burns said the DART team had scheduled a meeting with the property owner and former Midnight Rodeo owner in the next week.

He said the meeting will still be taking place, now with a new set of issues to discuss.

“There still needs to be a cleanup. There still needs to be a securing of this structure and the area. The illegal parking also needs to be addressed for this community to feel a little bit safer and have some resolution,” said Burns.

Hood, meanwhile, said he expected SAFD crews to remain onsite for some time as demolition and cleanup work continues. A cause is still under investigation, which is typical for fires as large and intense as the one that destroyed Midnight Rodeo. 


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