Cosmos Cafe, a live music institution since 1996 will be closing its doors on December 1, 2007. This unfortunate ending follows the trend of other Washington Avenue venue closings: Rockefeller’s, Satelite Lounge, Rhythm Room, Silky’s, and Mary Jane’s.Peter Pallas, proprietor of Cosmos stated:”I know many of you will feel that I have let you down by closing Cosmos, but I’m tired. I’m tired of working 80+ hours a week. I’m tired of the Houston people not supporting live music (now there’s one less venue). I’m tired of fighting our governmental agencies. Lastly I’m tired of policing the new smoking ban, both to the patrons and employees…I didn’t create the law I was just obeying it! My “party” lasted over five years. Our last party will be hosted by blues sensation, Seth Walker, Friday November 30. Now is time to get out. Thank you for your patronage and friendships. God Bless you and God Bless America.”Cosmos Cafe’s eclectic, laid-back ambiance is obvious with but one glance at the bar room. Multicolored Japanese-style lanterns illuminate the entrance and lead to a room full of people listening to the sounds emanating from the stage on this particular Tuesday’s open mic night. Patrons dine on “upscale comfort food” in booths decorated with original artwork of local artists, many of whom are also Cosmos regulars. The only thing missing from the hybrid art house/dive bar at 69 Heights Blvd. is owner and sometimes bartender, former Notre Dame fullback Pete Pallas. Since leaving corporate America about 10 months ago and buying the cafÃ©, Pallas has put his heart into living up to the challenge of running a bar, catering to the palates of as many regulars as Cosmos has, and serving as an outlet to the Heights art community. The challenge recently took Pallas to the Napa Valley to satisfy the always-changing desires of his bar’s wine connoisseurs. “We’re out here visiting some of our suppliers and we’re also looking for new hidden treasures to upgrade our wine list,” Pallas said. “Because, you know, people who are into wine are always looking for something different. They get kind of tired of the same old thing.” Pallas said the personal attention to Cosmos’ customers that he insists on from both his staff and himself is probably the reason that Cosmos has so many regulars. “I think a good part of it is that we are hands on. Everybody knows everybody. When our customers come in they’re greeted by name. It’s the closest things to “Cheers” that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve got people who eat lunch and dinner in there six or seven nights a week. I’ve got people who come in there and just drink four or five times a week.” Cosmos regular and Heights businessman Tom Acquisto’s explanation of what has kept him coming back for the last six years echoed Pallas’ sentiment. “It’s (Cosmos) got a real relaxed sort of atmosphere. There’s never any trouble, and the food’s good,” Acquisto said. “Most of the time there’s music. The size is great, and the atmosphere is always very laid back.” Julie Grier acts as a consultant, curator and sometimes manager for Cosmos. Like Pallas, Grier left the grind of corporate America to help run Cosmos. She is heavily involved in day-to-day operations, but her passion is finding the local artist that Cosmos features on its walls every month. Cosmos hosts a monthly art mixer that allows patrons to get to know one of the Heights’ many artists while sipping on martinis and wine. The artist’s work is than displayed on the restaurant’s walls for the remainder of the month. She said this gives Heights artists a chance to introduce and sell their work without having to pay tribute to a middle man. It also allows Cosmos to keep their regulars guessing. “We have a new look every month,” Grier said. “It keeps it interesting. Our regulars enjoy the fact that it’s going to be predictable as far as the food quality, they’re going to see Peter in here on a day-to-day basis, and at the same time see whatever new stuff this month’s art show brings. “We really are trying to make our customers aware of the art that is around in this neighborhood. There’s just so many artists here in our own back yard who people aren’t aware of.” Besides doubling as an ever-evolving and revolving art gallery, Cosmos is also a vibrant music venue. The bands that perform at Cosmos just about cover the spectrum of music genres, ranging from traditional local favorites like the Romeo Dogs to the unique sounds of Rick Lee, the Chinese-American attorney who is transformed into a wailing blues man on the last Friday of every month. “We’re one of Houston’s best-kept secrets,” Pallas said, “just for the entertainment. I’ve got some form of live music five to six nights a week. Everything from original songwriters to zydeco to an 18-piece big band that plays the last Sunday of every month.” Matt Gochnour, a junior electrical engineering major at Georgia Tech who is in Houston for the summer, recently performed during an open mic session despite being far younger than most of that evening’s crowd. “The crowd’s a little old for us,” Gochnour mused. “We like a younger crowd, but we don’t know a lot of places to play.” Pallas said that he welcomes all types, but he doesn’t mind being the watering hole for the more mature crowd. “We have a diverse crowd,” Pallas said. “For people who are 40- to 60-years-old, it’s a great place to hang out.” A wide range of people seem to enjoy Cosmos for a wide range of reasons, but it is a sense of community that makes so many regulars feel comfortable. “There’s a sense of belonging. They can come here and be who they are,” Grier said.