More than a month later, owner still seeking approval from city for new gay bar on Maple

Owner Keith Lackie stands inside Klub Wet in October holding a plaque he received to commemorate the bar’s opening — an opening that never happened.

Keith Lackie is frustrated and angry. Pretty soon, he says, he might also be bankrupt.

Lackie was set to open Klub Wet, a new gay bar on Maple Avenue, at the end of October. But then the city of Dallas refused to issue him a certificate of occupancy, saying he didn’t have sufficient parking. Lackie has two separate remote parking agreements for property across the street owned by Crow Holdings. But he says Crow Holdings is attempting to get out of the agreements because they want to use the property for their own redevelopment.

Lackie says he’s invested $150,000 to remodel the building that once housed Illusions, at 4100 Maple Ave. Klub Wet would fulfill a dream that Lackie had with his partner, Andy Primm, who died last year. Much of the money for the bar came from his partner’s life insurance policy.

For the last five weeks, Lackie and city building officials have gone round and round over the parking situation. Finally, last week, Lackie claims they agreed to a resolution whereby Lackie would wall off a section of the club to reduce the square-footage so he doesn’t need as much parking. But now he says the city is refusing to give him a final OK, and he’s convinced it’s due to opposition from Crow Holdings.

“We came up with a resolution and they’re still sitting on it,” Lackie told Instant Tea on Thursday. “It’s ridiculous, and in the meantime I’m on the brink of bankruptcy. I think the reason they’re putting it off is they’re waiting for Trammel Crow to come back with a different plan. They’re waiting for Trammell Crow [Crow Holdings] to tell them what to do next to prevent me from opening.”

Representatives from Crow Holdings failed to returned numerous phone calls from Instant Tea seeking comment about the matter over the last month. City Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, who represents the area, also hasn’t returned our phone calls. Medrano’s assistant referred questions to city building officials.

Phil Sikes, an assistant building official for the city, said Thursday that his department is still researching the history of the Klub Wet property and the parking agreements. Sikes said he hopes to have an answer on Lackie’s latest proposal by next week.

Sikes said it appears as though one of the two parking agreements with Crow Holdings is valid, while the other is not. The city is now trying to determine how many “delta credits” — grandfathered parking from before the city required it — Klub Wet should receive.

The investigation, Sikes said, is complicated by changing uses of the building over the years, an illegal expansion in the 1990s and other factors.

“It really is just a mess,” Sikes said. “We understand his situation is that he’s ready to open his business. He’s sank a tremendous amount of money into it, and every day he’s not open, he’s losing money. We get that.”

But Sikes denied that opposition from Crow Holdings has anything to do with the delay.

“They don’t talk to us about this stuff,” Sikes said. “We don’t go talk to them. Whoever the neighbor is doesn’t matter to us. We’re trying to make a determination based off the records.”

Lackie says if he doesn’t hear something soon he plans to take his story to the mainstream media and demand an investigation.

“I can tell you from the conversations that I’ve had with people at different events and the clubs around town, everybody thinks the city and Trammell Crow are colluding, and probably that the city has their hands in Trammell Crow’s pockets,” Lackie said. “Trammell Crow doesn’t want a gay bar in their front yard. The city is grasping at straws, at any little thing they can come up with to keep me from opening, so that Trammell Crow gets what they want. I guarantee it.”

—  John Wright