Reid Robinson, part-owner of Brizo and The Forum, said the a-ha moment to launch a new-age drive-in theater came to him at Keller’s, a decades-old North Dallas restaurant where servers bring food to your car.
“We were getting burgers delivered to our car, and it kind of clicked,” he said. “And then, I thought, ‘Wow, what about carhop service with a movie and entertainment?’”
A week later, on April 17, Robinson hosted the first CarBaret, which has since evolved to include live music, DJ sets, performing artists and 1950s-era movies projected on a 30-foot flat screen.
“We sold out 40 cars in a matter of hours as soon as we announced,” he said.
Robinson had most of the equipment needed to pull off the event, including a low-watt FM transmitter that allows movies to be broadcast over 93.5 FM. But since CarBaret has taken off in popularity, Robinson said he has upped his game.
“We really upgraded our entire system,” he said. “In a matter of eight weeks, it has really turned from a curbside production into a big project.”
Upcoming CarBaret events will include a local theater company performing acts of Shakespeare as well as a Buster Keaton silent film accompanied by a live soundtrack, Robinson said.
“I have a really fantastic artist that will do live music for a Buster Keaton film, and we will definitely have some more Vaudeville—we are going to go a little more ’20s for that one.”
Brizo was less than a month old when stay-at-home orders kicked into effect, sending Robinson and his partners into a tailspin. The bar and restaurant, which serves craft cocktails and gourmet small plates, had been well received by the community and was doing just about as well as a new business could, Robinson said.
“All that momentum was basically wiped out, and we had to start from scratch,” he said.
Since launching CarBaret, Brizo has been able to bring back several employees, Robinson said. In late May, the restaurant reopened its dining room at 25% capacity and is making moves to increase to 50%, he said.
The owners of Brizo also recently hired a new general manager and are beginning to increase hiring to staff both the outside carhop service and the inside tables.
“The CarBaret is more than just a drive-in because we have the entertainment aspect; we have the film and a lot of different elements that make it a fun evening,” he said. “Without that, I don’t know where we would be right now.”
CarBaret is hosted every Friday and Saturday night starting at 6:30 p.m. Guests can order concessions from masked carhops, which offer items ranging from gourmet popcorn and barbecue to tacos and hot dogs.
“Just to be able to do this during our post-COVID apocalypse has been a really fun thing,” Robinson said. “It’s been a real joy to bring this out.”
For more information on CarBaret and to buy tickets, visit this link.