Owner says city, Crow Holdings blocked opening of new gay bar on Maple after he invested $150K

Owner Keith Lackie stands behind the bar on Friday holding a plaque he received to commemorate the opening of Klub Wet.

It was Keith Lackie and Andy Primm’s dream to open a gay bar together.

When Primm died last year at 44, Lackie was left with a life insurance policy.

Lackie decided to use the money to fulfill the couple’s dream, and three months ago, he signed a lease for the building that housed Illusions, at 4100 Maple Ave., which had recently closed.

Since then, Lackie said he’s spent $150,000 remodeling the building. He was scheduled to open Klub Wet Piano & Music Video Lounge at 11 a.m. today.

But on Wednesday, Lackie found out the city of Dallas won’t issue a certificate of occupancy — the final permit needed before he opens — because he doesn’t have sufficient parking.

“I don’t even have the money to pay my house payment next month,” Lackie said Friday afternoon as he stood inside Klub Wet. “I was counting on being able to open this week.”

Lackie explained that the owner of the building that houses Klub Wet, Victor Ballas, has a Remote Parking Agreement for 46 spaces on property that sits just across Throckmorton Street. Lackie signed a one-year lease with Ballas with a four-year extension option.

But the parking for Klub Wet sits on property that’s now owned by Crow Holdings, which plans to redevelop much of the neighborhood. Lackie said Crow Holdings has convinced city officials that the Remote Parking Agreement is invalid, because it doesn’t list an accurate square footage for the bar.

The parking agreement, from 1996, lists the square footage of the building at about 1,400 square feet, while Klub Wet actually occupies about 2,500 square feet. But even with the larger square footage, the 46 spaces would be more than sufficient. Lackie said the square footage discrepancy is probably due to the fact that the bar occupied only part of the building in 1996.

Lackie said the term of the Remote Parking Agreement is as long as the building is occupied by a bar. But he said Crow Holdings has seized upon the square-footage technicality because it wants the parking for its own development.

“If Trammell Crow can keep me from opening up and it can’t be a bar, these parking agreements will go away and they’ll get their property back,” Lackie said.

Lackie said he’s been working with a licensing consultant to try to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the city, but now that the effort has proven unsuccessful, he plans to consult with his attorney.

Lackie said he’s already hired about 10 employees, some of whom have quit their old jobs. Among other things, he’s furnished Klub Wet with a grand piano and was poised to make it the only gay piano bar in Dallas.

On Thursday night, Klub Wet hosted a private party attended by 40-50 people, and one of Lackie’s new employees presented him with a plaque that reads “A Dream Come True, Alan Primm and Keith Lackie.”

For now, though, it’s a dream on hold.

“It was our dream to do it,” Lackie said. “I can’t give up.”

—  John Wright