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San Antonio Nightclub Lerma's Soon To Begin Its Transformation As Nonprofit

Credit Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
Architectural rendering of Lerma's

There's a groundbreaking at 10 a.m. Monday to restore an old West Side nightclub which ended up being much more than just a nightclub.

The building is called Lerma’s and was built in 1942. By 1951 — 'til it closed in 2010 — it continuously booked musicians playing primarily conjunto music. The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center's Susana Segura explained Conjunto.

"Conjunto music is very important to this region because it's a fusion of German, Czech, Polish and Mexican Norteño  sound,” she said. “You have the accordion and the bajo sexto, which is the 12-string guitar, and those two instruments create this American folk music called Conjunto music."

To those wondering why a nightclub from yesteryear is so important, Segura said it served a bigger purpose.

"It was a community gathering space, and it was used for family functions, family parties, quinceañeras, weddings. Gilbert and Mary, the previous owners of Lerma's used to open it up during the day after funerals so that people could have family gatherings there," Segura said.

Credit Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
architectural rendering

In a community without many institutions that help determine a neighborhood's self-concept, the few there over time become indistinguishable from the neighborhood itself. In this fashion, Lerma's became an important part of the community it served. It has recently been cited by the Texas Historical Commission.

"It's also on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was voted Texas' Most Endangered landmark in 2015," she said. 

With many donations, including half a million dollar grants from both the city and the county, and under the auspices of the Esperanza Center, Lerma's will be saved and re-open as a 501c3 nonprofit entity. Segura said the job is a big one.  

"We need a whole new roof and we're going to re-do the slab foundation. We're going to have all new plumbing, all new electrical," she said. "In the future though it's going to be a community gathering space and we still want to have performances in that space."

The 10 a.m. Monday groundbreaking at Lerma's serves as the beginning point in that renewal.

Jack Morgan can be reached at Jack@TPR.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii