Protest letters cite concerns about prostitution, sexual activity but neighbors deny opposition is rooted in homophobia; hearing set Dec. 7
About 250 people are protesting the reopening of the Hideaway on Buena Vista Street, according to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission records.
Protesters include several area homeowners associations, the owner of an office building adjacent to the bar and Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt.
On TABC protest forms, neighbors checked off traffic, noise and criminal activity. Under “other,” a variety of additional reasons were given, including concerns about sexual activity, prostitution, ADA compliance, trash, safety and drunk people.
An administrative law judge is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday, Dec. 7 — delayed from September — on granting a TABC license to the Hideaway.
But the hearing may be delayed again by a request for a continuance that was set to be heard on Friday, Nov. 30.
In her letter of complaint, Hunt requested TABC deny the license because of numerous neighborhood complaints concerning quality of life issues should the bar reopen.
“I base my request on continuous crime and disturbances (loud noise, unruly behavior, destruction of private property, unauthorized parking, litter and other illegal activities) driven by patrons of the previous establishment at this location and the other three bars within one block of this location,” Hunt wrote.
The iconic Hideaway, well known as a piano bar, closed after 26 years in 2009. The Hershner family, which owns the Tin Room and the Drama Room, is trying to reopen it.
Lonzie Hershner told Dallas Voice the neighborhood’s concerns are unfounded.
“We have taken every step to assure them about their concerns,” Hershner said. “We’re hiring off-duty police and providing valet parking.”
The administrative law court is independent of TABC but hears cases that involve a dispute between a government agency and someone affected by a decision of that agency.
Six hours have been set aside on the Dec. 7 docket for the hearing.
Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC, said the agency is neutral.
In its investigation, the agency found no reason to deny a license. Beck said before the scheduled hearing in September that an agent visited the neighborhood at night and during the day.
During the day the area is quiet, but at night, the neighborhood is already noisy.
She said that the investigation didn’t connect the activity listed in the complaints with the bar management or the applicant.
“We’re looking for a legal reason to deny the permit to the bar,” Beck said. “We didn’t find one.”
Since the Hideaway first opened 20 years ago, quite a bit of residential development has taken place along Buena Vista Street. Property across the street from the bar fronts the Katy Trail. Condos have been built on a lot where patrons used to park.
“The location has limited parking, there is little street parking and the location is access via residential streets,” wrote Shawna Wilson and Rick Schene on behalf of the Parkwood Townhomes Homes Owners Association [sic].
To address parking issues, Hershner said that on busy nights there would be valet. In addition to parking he built behind a neighboring dentist’s office, he has leased parking in another nearby lot.
“We’ve already got more than double the parking we’re supposed to have,” he said.
Other complaints involve trash, drug use and sex on a private street that runs between Buena Vista and Travis streets.
“Bar patrons engaging in sexual relations on our property — I had to tell 2 men to leave from behind the bushes next to our mailboxes,” wrote Jamie and David Baker in a letter to TABC.
To address that concern, Hershner said he’s hiring off-duty police officers for security to keep things under control on the property and the immediate neighboring area.
Hershner said neighbors were worried about dancers in the back bar attracting the wrong type of clientele to the area.
“We won’t be a dancer bar,” he said. “We signed an affidavit that said that with TABC.”
The complaints have come from both gay and straight neighbors.
“My request to not allow the new bar at 4144 Buena Vista to not obtain an alcohol license is not motivated by homophobia in any way whatsoever,” wrote Craig Pineau, who’s gay. “All we want is a safe peaceful living environment and permitting this bar to obtain an alcohol license will infringe upon the health, safety and welfare of the residents in the area.”
According to TABC, the judge has 60 days after the hearing to issue a ruling. Each side then has 15 days to file exceptions and the other side has 15 days to answer. Then TABC has up to a year to issue an order but one to six months would be normal. If the neighborhood wins, the Hershners can appeal. However, if the Hershners win, the neighborhood may not appeal.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 30, 2012.