Roger Nelson, who was the general manager at Lakewood Landing and a longtime fixture on the Dallas hospitality scene, died on October 8. Since then, the Lakewood Landing and East Dallas communities have been mourning his loss in testimonials published on social media. Lakewood Landing shared an interview with Nelson from Eater Dallas in 2014 on its Facebook page, which was also the year Dallas Observer awarded him the title of the best bartender.
“He was my best friend, fishing buddy, and extremely loyal to family and friends,” Lakewood Landing owner Bill Rossell tells Eater Dallas of Nelson.
Peja Krstic, the owner and chef of nearby Mot Hai Ba, posted his goodbye to Nelson on Instagram, sending his thanks for the time they spent together and their friendship with his love.
Joel Stephenson, general manager of the House of Blues in Dallas, spoke to Eater Dallas about Nelson, who was his longtime friend and sometime co-worker. He recalled first encountering Nelson when he was managing the now-defunct Gypsy Tea Room in Deep Ellum in the mid-2000s. “Being a younger bartender who looked up to the folks there, I was in awe of his ability to sling booze like no one I’ve ever seen before,” he says.
Stephenson recalls that he often crossed paths with Nelson when he started hanging out at the Landing, where they met spent time together at the pool table. “As someone else who worked in dive bars, they’re a challenging place to work,” Stephenson says. “The way he was able to navigate difficult situations was admirable. Roger had a definite sense of what was right and wrong, and he always stood up for right. He upheld the culture of the Lakewood Landing and East Dallas.”
Speaking to Eater Dallas in 2014, Nelson said he’d worked at many notable places around town, including getting his start at the former Boss Cafe on Lower Greenville, a club called Warrants, and the Tea Room. Stephenson also noted that Nelson worked at Lee Harvey’s and would pick up occasional shifts at Double Wide.
Nelson told Eater Dallas in 2014 that his favorite place to be was in a boat on Lake Ray Hubbard, saying, “That keeps me off of drugs, and that’s my therapy.” Nelson was from Lake Highlands and attended the now-shuttered Walden Preparatory School.
“Everything about Roger was larger than life,” Stephenson says.
Lakewood Landing will hold a celebration of life for Nelson on Tuesday, October 17 starting at 3 p.m. Ride sharing is encouraged.
Update: October 17, 2023, 8:09 a.m.: This story was updated to add a statement from Rossell.