Buli now under new ownership

New owners say they plan to update the interior but keep the Buli name and format.


MOVING ON | After selling Bull Cafe, Scott Whittall plans to concentrate on the cattle business he owns with his partner. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Scott Whittall sold his Cedar Springs Road coffee shop, Buli, to new owners this week and will resign as president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

New owners Robert Clawson and Rob Auman are partners and plan to retain Buli’s format.

“These were two long-time, loyal customers who wanted to purchase Buli,” said Whittall. “They want to see it remain Buli.”

Last week, Clawson and Auman signed a lease with the property owner and Whittall got a release from his obligation for the store from the landlord. Sale of store assets should take place this week.

“In the beginning, we’re going to run it the same way,” Clawson said.

Over the next three to six months, Clawson said they would redesign and update some of the interior. He said that they plan to replace the bar top to give the shop a new look.

“But we’re going to continue to be Buli,” he said.

Whittall said they had talked about extending hours and some additions to the menu, but those changes would also not be immediate.

Dec. 1 is the planned takeover date, but Whittall will continue working at the café for several weeks after to help with the transition and to finish some planned events and catering jobs.

Earlier this year, Whittall tried to expand his business into a neighboring space formerly occupied by a hair salon. He applied for a liquor license but the city requires more parking for restaurants and bars than for retail and service businesses.

By doubling the space, Whittall would have had to provide four times as many parking spaces.

When he couldn’t secure the necessary extra parking, Whittall was released from his option for the additional space and withdrew his Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission application. He said he thought about reapplying for a TABC license and turning his original space into a piano bar.

During this time, Clawson and Auman told Whittall that they’d be interested in purchasing the café. Whittall told them at the time that it wasn’t for sale.

But Whittall and his partner also own a successful cattle business that has been growing rapidly lately. For eight years in a row their cows won the Houston Livestock Show.

But Whittall explained that they don’t ship meat or animals.

“It’s a genetics business,” he said. “We ship embryos and semen. We help them create their herds out of championship stock.”

Whittall is also president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association. He said he wants to see planned events through until the end of the year.

But Whittall said he would talk to the board at the CSMA meeting in December about who will lead the organization after he leaves.

On Dec. 2, the merchants group is hosting a fundraising event at The Rose Room. The evening includes a buffet dinner catered by Jim Lee Events and entertainment by Linda Petty, Victoria Weston and Rusty Johnson. Tickets are $75.

Money raised will be used to hire a security guard on the east side of Cedar Springs Road. Caven Enterprises currently pays for a security on the west side of the street where that company’s bars are located.

Even though he’s leaving, Whittall said he is passionate about the continued success and safety of business in the area and encouraged people to come to the event to support the neighborhood.

“The event will be an elegant, white-linen dinner,” he said. “The Rose Room will be decorated as you’ve never seen it before.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

City regulations can stymie new, expanding businesses in Oak Lawn

Lack of parking, ‘surprise’ new requirements for liquor licensing delayed opening of Thai restaurant, forced other shops to close before they could ever open


Danny Sikora

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

The number of seats in a restaurant is usually limited by the fire marshal. But in Oak Lawn, that limit is set by parking regulations, according to Thairrific owner Danny Sikora.

Although he acquired the space formerly occupied by Hungdingers about five months ago, Sikora did not receive his final certificate of occupancy until this week. Most of the delays, he said, were city-related.

But Sikora’s schedule isn’t the only casualty. City regulations requiring restaurants and bars to provide more parking spaces than retail stores has resulted in at least two other problems for businesses on Cedar Springs Road.

When Zen Clipz closed, Buli owner Scott Whittall tried to rent the space and turn it into a nighttime cabaret-style venue. Parking issues forced him to scuttle those plans.

And building had already begun on a coffee shop on Throckmorton Street between Macho Nacho and Thairrific when lack of parking put the kibosh on those plans as well.

Sikora said he was approved for a restaurant with 78 seats, even though the space could comfortably seat more.

“The city is not taking into account how pedestrian-heavy this neighborhood is,” he said.

Parking, however, was not the only delay in opening his new business.

“The city has a surprise new requirement before they’ll complete their portion of the TABC packet,” he said.

Sikora said he had to submit to the city a new architectural rendering of his space and a map of all property within 300 feet of his business. But Sikora said that since this regulation is new, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission didn’t know about it — and neither did Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt.

And in the office charged with enforcing this new regulation, no one agreed on what was required.

One city worker told him that it meant 300 feet from the edge of the property. Another said it was 300 feet from his space and a third told him to measure 300 feet from his front door.

The renderings have to be completed within 10 days of submission. After a week’s delay in the city office and being turned down once because of a disagreement of what the regulation meant, one city employee approved the plans and sent the city’s portion of the packet off to TABC, without a day to spare in the 10-day rule.

In addition, the new regulation cost Sikora $1,200, plus a $100 fee to the city to certify that the plans were correct. Another day’s delay would have cost him another $1,200 for a new set of plans.

And by delaying his application until Sept. 3, the city cost him more money, because TABC licenses increased in price on
Sikora said that he thought it was foolish, especially since alcohol has been approved for this location numerous times over the last 15 years.

Once the certificate of occupancy was issued, Sikora said, he could then order the things he wanted for the restaurant that he didn’t need for the inspections.

“We weren’t doing what next-door did,” he said, referring to the coffee shop. He said they sunk $30,000 into the space before learning that the city was not going to approve an operating permit.

For the restaurant’s sign, Sikora said he had hoped his partner’s sister, an artist, could paint it directly on the building. But that didn’t work because the non-retractable awning was in the way.

Sikora said he considered taking down the awning to paint the sign, but then he learned that a city ordinance required a hefty fee for putting an awning back up.

So instead, the artist ended up having to paint the sign on a sheet of plastic. Then hanging the sign required a permitting process that included submitting drawings, a list of items used to construct the sign and an explanation of how the sign would be hung. A professional sign company with a cherry-picker to reach over the awning had to be hired to hang it.

Other delays included a roof leak that Sikora said was not obvious through the exceptionally dry summer and other problems with some of the equipment that was purchased from the previous owner that have been fixed.

Sikora invested in the restaurant earlier this year. Family-run Thairrific has been in business for about 11 years in an old shopping center on Forest Lane at Webb Chapel Road. Sikora said he’d been a regular customer for most of that time. Then the restaurant’s owner/chef said he wanted to cook and wasn’t interested in the business aspect of the restaurant anymore, and he asked Sikora if he wanted to become a business partner.

The two then discovered that much of their business at the North Dallas location was actually coming from Oak Lawn, so they decided to move to the new location, closer to their customers.

Sikora also has a small investment in Aston’s Bakery, another family-run business, located on Lover’s Lane near the Tollway.

Next to the cash register in the new Thairrific location, he installed a bakery counter and plans to offer a limited number of items from the Aston’s.

Sikora said that what sets his restaurant apart from other Thai places is that there are no steam tables.

“Everything’s made-to-order,” he said. “Soup? It’s not coming out of a soup tureen.”

The soup stock is made, but everything in the soup will be added when ordered.

“It’s healthy cooking,” he said. “Few fried items.”

And after five months, Thairrific may be open soon. When? Well, things are on order. But Sikora’s still just not sure on the date.


Two Corks ribbon cutting set
North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce members John Ley and Elwyn Hull will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new winery, Two Corks and a Bottle, on Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 5:30 p.m.
to 7 p.m. The store is located on the north side of The Quadrangle on Routh at Lacliede streets.
There will be door prizes and happy hour pricing.

American Airlines expanding Curbside Check-In
FORT WORTH — Officials with American Airlines recently announced that the airline is expanding its Curbside Check-In service to give customers traveling internationally the opportunity to check their bags with the skycap — making their trip through the airport as smooth as possible.
For more information about the expanded Curbside Check-in service, go online to

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

COVER STORY: Let the music play

Local musician SuZanne Kimbrell carves her own path while proving to Dallas that gay people can rock just as hard as anyone else

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer

One Wednesday night in November, an idea came to fruition — one based on the hope that Dallas’ gay music scene can change.

SuZanne Kimbrell believes that the LGBT community in Dallas hasn’t embraced its own out musical artists enough.

The thing is — she may be right.

Kimbrell’s bi-monthly music event, Twist Dallas, has been getting praises by some in the gay community for offering an alternative to the Cedar Springs Strip for a night out. But for Kimbrell, it’s also a different way to approach gay Pride.

“I think that’s what Pride is a lot about — not only just being gay, but the diversity of what that means,” she said.

By day, Kimbrell works at a coffee shop part-time and teaches music. By night, she’s on the hustle as most struggling musicians are.

But she hustles for two things: her own musical career, which is making some strides, and Twist Dallas, which features a roster of LGBT and gay friendly local musicians.

The inaugural Twist happened that crisp November night in East Dallas when Kimbrell filled the Lakewood Bar and Grill with an ambitious lineup of seven musicians and bands, along with a visual artist for good measure.

And the place was packed.

“We have a great pool of gay and lesbian musicians in Dallas [who are] not being heard,” Kimbrell said. “It’s not the gayborhood’s fault, but I think it’s the lack of communication.”

KEEPING UP | SuZanne Kimbrell keeps track of what’s hot, musically, at the listening station inside Good Records on Lower Greenville. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Getting started

That first night, in the middle of the week, the show began at an early 7:30 p.m. but lasted well past 1 a.m. At the midpoint, the bar was packed, mostly with women, but Kimbrell’s vision had been realized.

She built it, and the gays came out.

Seven months later, Kimbrell is staging her fourth show and all is going according to plan.

“Getting anybody to any show can be hard, but the word is getting out,” she said. “We’ve had more people come each show, and I think that each show has been subsequently more successful than the last.”

But there has been frustration along the way.

With Twist Dallas, Kimbrell’s intention was to create a platform for local LGBT musicians to perform and be showcased. She didn’t see that much anywhere else.
Kimbrell had a regular stint at Jack’s Backyard and performed at an open mic at Sue Ellen’s, but found it difficult to break into her own gay district where established locals consistently performed. So she did something about it.

“It’s been hard to play on Cedar Springs. Dallas has shown a platform for queer musicians, but it’s only one window to look through on this big ship of music,” Kimbrell said with building intensity. “On this ship, we have a 100 different windows to look through. All we want is for people to come look here and see the amazing talent.”

In the three shows under her belt, Kimbrell has featured local gay musicians that play folk, rock, R&B and hip-hop. She added local poet Audacious to her second bill, adding the element of spoken word.

Kimbrell isn’t hung up on the type of performance. She just wants to put it out there.

Infidelix, aka Bryan Rodecker, a hip-hop artist from Denton, finished off the first Twist event with some major upswing, even as the crowd dwindled into the late weeknight.

“Playing that night was amazing,” he said. “The coolest part was that it wasn’t at a gay bar. Usually we get segregated just to playing our clubs, but this brings us out to [non-gay] venues and that’s wonderful.

“The different styles brought many of us together,” Rodecker continued. “In that one night, I made lifelong artist friends. I can’t wait to play another one.”

Finding her voice

In the fall of 2007, Kimbrell returned from a stay in South America while part of the Peace Corps. She was there for two years, mostly in Paraguay — and while there, she discovered her voice as a musician.

Kimbrell had always tinkered around with music, but nights in Paraguay over a two-year period passed slowly. Fortunately, she had packed her guitar.

Kimbrell essentially taught herself to play guitar and after an accidental duet with a guy and his guitar from the Corps, she discovered she didn’t have such a bad voice.

“He was singing ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman and he sang for shit,” she laughed. “So I jumped in and after, he told me I should start looking into doing that more. Later on, as I got better, I got to play in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, of course.”

Kimbrell had somehow made the unique career move of becoming an international musician before becoming a local one.

With a newfound confidence, she jumped into the music scene when she returned to Dallas. She booked solid shows, bringing her brand of rock and blues to the scene, and she went at her shows unabashedly.

“I had the guts to get onstage and I just didn’t care,” she said. “I had developed a lot since coming back and my voice, literally and as lesbian, is stronger. I don’t have anything to hide.”

Keeping up momentum

With her fourth show looming, Kimbrell also has to keep up on her own career and it’s not an enviable position to be in. She was just approved by Kickstarter.com to get help with funding her goals for a full-length album (the site is a fundraising tool where people and companies can sponsor and donate funds to artistic projects).

Her goal is to raise enough funds to pay for studio costs, marketing and publishing in time to start recording in August this year. Although she’s excited about this part of her “business” plan, she knows she’s got a hard job ahead of her.

“The music industry is a bitch,” Kimbrell said. “You have to be tenacious and always on the bit, the phone, networking everyday; you need to be hustling. If you miss it, you’re done.”

This doesn’t sway her. While she may not have time to be overly excited about this latest development, it’s not lost on her.

“It’s so nice Kickstarter has given me a chance and I can see the $6,500 goal and the deadline and the people supporting me,” she said.

But there are other things are on her mind, too, like getting this edition of Twist Dallas finalized.

Since the first show, tweaks had to be made in order for it to push forward. For instance, the event has moved to a Thursday, which may bring more people in to the show.

Another tweak was actually the result of her getting flak by both gay and straight fans.

“I used to want it to be totally gay, but a big change is adding straight people to the lineup,” Kimbrell said. “People told me to bring in all of the community and they were right.

“I wanted a platform solely for gays, but I realized that first, there are not as many out musicians and that we need to be inclusive. We’ll never evolve if we are exclusive.”

The struggle showed on her face as she went through the behind-the-scenes details, but her spirit still had the spark. For her, Twist Dallas is worth it.

Besides, it’s her baby.

“People say that it’s fun and are glad it’s here and that it’s needed,” Kimbrell said. “They say they love Oak Lawn but that it’s nice getting out of there to see other musicians, artists, or hear poetry by people they might not have heard of.”

Looking to the future

Kimbrell expressed an inner conflict though. When asked if she would ever bring Twist to Oak Lawn, she wasn’t sure.

She said she has wrestled with the idea. While a stage at Pride is her ideal situation for Twist, the conflict comes from a sort of apathy or complacency Dallas’ gay community seems to have regarding live, original music.

Why is that?

“I think there’s a comfort there and that makes it hard to get into some of the venues,” she said. “The community and the powers that be get comfortable. I don’t think they’re trusting but the community is educated. Why not educate them some more with different options?

“We need to keep looking to the future while remembering the past, but unless that changes, we’re gonna be stuck,” she said.

Ultimately, Kimbrell said she would like a Twist show in Oak Lawn, being that it is the heart of the gay population. She’d also like to see it bounce around venues, much like the way Chick Happy Hour and Guerrilla Gay Bar do, taking the gays out of the box.

“The reason its called Twist is to shake things up,” Kimbrell said. “We wanna be seen, but also mix more with other parts and people of Dallas. And yes, I’d love Twist in Oak Lawn if people want it. I think Sue’s or the Rose Room would be great spots for it.”

Kimbrell is all about versatility. She learned quickly that Twist doesn’t need to be rigid — it couldn’t survive that way.

She just wants to get music out there and get exposure for what Dallas — and even beyond — has to offer in work by queer musicians, wherever that happens.

“I think it’s important to not always go to the same part of town. Wouldn’t you like to go to Lakewood or Deep Ellum or anywhere else and know you can go into the club because we made a presence there and they’re used to gay people there?

“We’re here, we’re queer get used to us. Isn’t that the slogan? Now hear our music and look at our art.”


Do the Twist

Chasing the Muse

As mentioned in the main article, SuZanne Kimbrell made major tweaks to this latest edition of Twist Dallas. First and foremost, the event moves to Thursday nights, and while this show continues at Lakewood Bar & Grill, she expects that the July show will be in a different venue.

Also, the lineup here is tighter with four performers on the bill (Kimbrell included), but she’s pulled together another eclectic group of performers.

Natalie Velasquez hails from Denton. She plays guitar with a three-piece band backing her that plays improvisational jazz with some rock thrown in.

She’s also a TWU student studying music.

According to Kimbrell, Denton is a hotbed for LGBT musicians. Past performers Infidelix and Immigrant Punk are from there as well.

Finding inspiration in Tori Amos, Bjork and Radiohead, David Siuba from Santa Fe brings his piano skills to town, offering up a queer perspective to his alternative pop.
Robinson Hall will likely finish the show on a high note. Led by queer vocalist Jackie Hall, the band is a blend of sultry soul and slick guitar rock.

In their videos on Facebook, they bring in the funk — expect the same on Thursday.

Visual artist Sylwester Zabielski will have his photography and film work on display.

Kimbrell does most of Twist out of her pocket, but is always on the lookout for help. For anyone wanting to be a part of the Twist team as a volunteer, she’s welcoming people with a variety of skills to help with upcoming shows.

Kimbrell admits the hardest part is the Web and marketing. She wants to develop a street team of people to hit the nightspots and spread the word.

Her girlfriend Sarah Cox has handled most of the Web work, but with a heavy school schedule, Kimbrell is searching for people who are dedicated and reliable that could help take on Twist’s website and social networking.

For more information or to express an interest, contact Kimbrell via Twist Dallas on Facebook.

The May show for Twist Dallas will be at Lakewood Bar and Grill, 6340 Gaston Ave., on May 19 at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information go online to TwistDallas.com.


Advice for the loud at heart

CROWD CONTROL | The audience at Twist gives proper attention to the music.

As Twist Dallas evolves, one common aspect SuZanne Kimbrell has noticed is courtesy — or sometimes the lack of it.

It’s often that the lineup will include some softer music or a simple setup.

Kimbrell herself plays just with a guitar. But when someone’s phone rings or the conversations get too loud, she goes nuts.

“I just hate seeing my friends putting their heart and soul into their performance and someone is yelling into their cell phone or at the person next to them.”

Kimbrell has simple advice for those people. Or anyone. It’s not about shushing people so much as it is about common courtesy.

“I know they are in a bar, but it’s just rude. If you are within 15 feet of a singer but want to have a loud conversation, go away!” she advised.

She wants it clear that she doesn’t mind people talking, but distracting others by “taking away from the experience for people who give a shit about music” bugs her to no end.

In the March show, the crowd was so bad, she said, that one of the artists vowed never to return.

“There are ways to have conversations and watch people play,” Kimbrell said. “People just need to know that the musicians and the audiences feel that frustration.”

So, in short, shut up?

“Well, not to be mean, but yeah,” she laughed.

—  John Wright

Lone Star Ride training begins; 2 councilwomen receive scholarships to Velo-City conference

Lone Star Ride 2010
Lone Star Ride 2010

The Lone Star Ride held its first training ride of the year this weekend. A group of about a dozen cyclists met at the Oak Cliff Bike Shop in Bishop Arts and headed out on a 40-mile ride toward Lakewood and back.

LSR is held the last weekend in September and covers about 150 miles over two days. The ride raises money for Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Services of Dallas and the AIDS Outreach Center.

Meanwhile, the group Bike Friendly Oak Cliff announced that Dallas City Councilwomen Delia Jasso and Pauline Medrano received scholarships to attend this week’s Velo-City Conference in Seville, Spain. Only 10 city council members nationwide received full scholarships to attend.

Who knows, maybe Jasso and Medrano can be convinced to ride in this year’s Lone Star Ride.

And speaking of biking in Oak Cliff, getting a parking space in Bishop Arts on a Saturday morning is getting difficult. Oh, plenty of car parking. But the bike racks in front of Oddfellows — the new coffee shop that took Vitto’s old space — fill up fast.


—  David Taffet

The Coffee Lab aims to fill void on Cedar Springs

With Buli converting to a piano bar, the strip was going to be minus a coffee shop where people could convene with their laptops and spend hours nursing a latte. But I snapped this quick pic today while driving that way to find The Coffee Lab slated for the old Obscurities place next to Hungdinger. According to co-owner Neil Delaney, we should be enjoying their fine coffee drinks pretty soon.

If all goes according to plan, Delaney said, the shop could open on its target date of May 1 for the new “third wave” coffee house. Third wave has something to do with the all the coffee in the shop is no more than two weeks out of being roasted. The coffee comes from Counter Culture out of North Carolina. Pretty much after that shelf life, the coffee is out of there. Otherwise, Delaney is intent on providing the freshest coffee (that is also fair trade and organically certified) possible to customers.

“Every time we make a drink, the coffee will be ground right before it’s made,” Delaney said.

Delaney wasn’t specifically looking in the area for his new upstart company, but as he discovered Buli’s metamorphosis, his real estate agent suggested the spot. Delaney saw the timing as pure luck and got a lock on the spot. The signs went up Tuesday.

Delaney and his business partner Darin Danford are aware also of their location (they’re straight) and hope the Lab will fit right in to the heart of the gayborhood.

“We’re so excited about being a part of the community and we want to support it as well,” he said. “We know down there, a business either stays open two years or 20 years.”

They are shooting for the latter.

The Coffee Lab is currently hiring. Visit their website for details.

—  Rich Lopez

Lone Star Ride hires new event manager

Jerry Calumn

Calumn returns to Dallas to raise money for three ASOs including one he once worked for

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Officials with Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS announced this week that Jerry Calumn has been hired as the new LSR event manager. He replaces Dave Minehart, event manager since 2007, who resigned to move closer to family in Iowa.

Calumn worked for the Resource Center Dallas from 1990 to 1998. He was hired as one of the first employees at the center’s current location on Reagan Street where he headed the education department and served as clinic manager.

Since then, he has lived in Los Angeles and New York where he had a varied career.

He helped create the American Academy of HIV Medicine in Los Angeles, which turned that area of medicine into a recognized specialty. The organization has since moved to Washington, D.C.

Calumn has also worked in marketing and communications and done consultation work for both private and non-profit industry.

In addition, he began a comedy career in L.A.

“I built a show around a word-of-mouth campaign,” he said, adding that he performed in a coffee shop. His show combined improv and stand-up. He said one day Margaret Cho showed up and they developed the first gay and lesbian comedy festival, which was filmed for Logo.

He left comedy for several reasons.

“The entertainment industry is the hardest, meanest industry,” he said. “Touring is hard. It’s a difficult lifestyle.”

Before leaving the Resource Center, Calumn rode in the first Tanqueray Texas AIDS Ride in 1998 that lasted seven days. That ride began in Austin and traveled through Houston before ending in Dallas.

“It made me an avid rider,” he said.

Calumn was living in New York doing consulting work and saw an ad for the event manager position with Lone Star Ride. He said he knew then it was time to come home.

“I was looking for an interesting opportunity,” Calumn said, adding that he knew he wanted to return to non-profit work.

“I love the energy and the focus of people who work in non-profit,” he said. “It’s about the connection and altruism.”

When he was in Dallas to interview for the position, Calumn had an opportunity to connect with a number of people he had worked with in the past. He said that under the leadership of Cece Cox, he saw vitality at the Resource Center that he hadn’t seen since John Thomas led the organization.

For his first year as event manager, Calumn said he plans to concentrate on the riders. He would like to give riders the tools they need to raise money and to enlist more people to participate in the ride.

“There’s lots of room for growth,” he said.

To accomplish that goal, he has already spoken to more than a dozen riders.

Last year, much of the fundraising was done using tools associated with new media.

“Having worked in so many different kinds of media,” Calumn said, “I bring that skill set to the table.”

Not only has Calumn been a vocal advocate for people with HIV for more than 20 years, he has lived with the disease himself for the past 17 years. It is that background and personal experience that LSR board members believe make him especially well-suited for the job.

“We’re sure Jerry will bring a renewed passion and focus to fighting the stigma HIV positive men and women face in all communities,” Ride Co-Chair John Tripp said.

Tripp said that Positive Peddlers, HIV positive Ride participants, had grown over the past two years and that he expected the group to have an even stronger presence under Calumn’s leadership.

Tripp complimented Minehart and everyone who worked on the 2010 ride. He said that non-profit agencies considered it a successful year if their fundraising broke even with the year before. Lone Star Ride has a 50 percent increase in the amount distributed last year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright