Italia Express to take over Macho Nacho spot

On my way to lunch, I drove past the not-really-that-old Macho Nacho spot to see a “coming soon” sign posted. As you can see in this photo, Italia Express will be moving in to the former Hunky’s space on the corner of Throckmorton and Cedar Springs. Macho Nacho did not have a longstanding presence on the Strip. Restaurateur Scott Jones opened the Tex-Mex eatery last spring but closed its doors due to a contentious lockout between the building landlord and Jones.

Coincidentally, Jones used to own and operate Cafe Italia on Lovers Lane which closed its doors in 2009. So it was natural to think that Jones may still be involved with the location.

“No, that’s not me,” he said. “I can see how people would think that, but I’m not involved in that location anymore.”

I put a call into Eloy Construction (the number on the sign) but they would not reveal who the owners are. I called the Italia Express on Continental Avenue but was unable to reach a manager or owner. The man who answered was unaware of any new location and so details on this location remain a mystery.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Goodbye LCR; hello again Metroplex Repubs

Gay GOP group’s officers offer a reasoned response to the breakup with Log Cabin Republicans and the myths surrounding it

There are times in life when we must evaluate our relationships with others to determine mutual benefit. And so it goes for political affiliations.

Schlein.Rob

Rob Schlein

Log Cabin Republicans Dallas pondered for years whether the association with LCR was a good “marriage” for many reasons. We did not undertake this evaluation lightly or in haste.

A couple of weeks ago, we were once again at a crossroads in evaluating that relationship. We were prepared to ask the Log Cabin national board for a hearing so that we could air our grievances and long-held concerns because a clear majority of our local board wanted a resolution that would keep us under the LCR-umbrella.

Instead, they pre-empted us by abruptly “de-certifying” our group, and “re-certifying” one with leadership of their choosing. Rather than wait two months for elections (we’ve been pushing for new leaders to come forward for years) they hand-selected their new president.

Merit or not, other Log Cabin Chapters should be, and are, very alarmed at what has happened with the lack of due process.

Last week, Log Cabin Republicans headquarters issued press releases — before we received our legal notice — that resulted in media articles that were factually untrue. ”Lie” might be too strong a word to write for a political organization, but “if the shoe fits” … .

There was no due process, and no formal warnings or notifications to the members of the chapter leadership.  There was no probation period … absolutely nothing!

From Chapter of the Year in 2008 to Chapter Death Sentence in 2011, you might ask, “What happened?”

We suspect that inviting leaders from another nationally known gay conservative organization to speak to a gay Republican group was,

OefteringRudy

Rudy Oeftering

in their view, an LCR National “emergency.” If true, it would reveal a near childish jealousy.

Was it the rumor we heard about the executive director’s displeasure with the Dallas Voice op-ed stating that Gov. Rick Perry is a better choice than President Obama? Was it Rob Schlein’s interview with Michael Signorile where he made a less than artful statement regarding minority politics vs. the common good?

Or perhaps it was the failed scheme of the inexperienced LCR executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, to pin blame on the local chapter for failures with a major donor that were clearly his responsibility.

Maybe the action was to deflect attention from LCR National’s embarrassing failures and list of “no-show” speakers at the national convention held in Dallas this past spring.

We may never know the answer to these questions, since our de-chartering is yet another example of the national office’s continued bumbling. Remember: No warning, no communication, no policy, no due process — absolutely nothing!

One of our most senior board members from the de-chartered local chapter wrote an email a few days ago to all of the national Log Cabin directors. It included this sentence: “I have in front of me one of the most incomprehensible pieces of fiction I’ve ever read in the form of a letter from the National LCR attorney laying out the reasoning for our de-chartering.”  He concluded, “The actions of the board were completely out of proportion to the problem at hand and were driven by personality conflicts, continued confusion in the national office, false accusations and half-truths.”

Their silence in response has been deafening.

In some ways, the actions of Log Cabin National, while immensely hurtful, made our decisions easy. We have always been one of the largest chapters in the LCR network. At over 30 years old, we started as Metroplex Republicans, and then chose to affiliate with Log Cabin in 1995.

As in marriage, sometimes the parties need to separate. And so it is now. We have come full circle, returning to our Metroplex Republicans roots. But in dropping the association with Log Cabin, we will have opportunity to reach further into the Dallas County party to affect positive change.

While a new Log Cabin chapter was technically chartered, it appears that even to the shell leadership, what comes next is hazy. Some feel the Log Cabin label is important, and may transition their membership to the infant chapter. Many are already suggesting reconciliation.

What is certain is that all are welcome to enjoy the continuity and quality of programming we have had in place for many years, formerly as Log Cabin and now as Metroplex Republicans.

Our years of experience have taught us what it takes in organization, dedication and quality programs for any volunteer organization to succeed. We have everything we need to grow and prosper.

We see the events of last week as an opportunity to reach more Republicans in Dallas. We intend to include Republicans of all varieties and will reach out to all non-traditional Republican allies. We believe correctly defined conservative principals benefit all and oppose the “gimme mine” politics of political sub-grouping at the expense of liberty and freedom.

Our next functions include a Preview Social for the Grand Ol’ Party on Oct. 22, the regular monthly meeting on Oct. 24, and the Grand Ol’ Party on Nov. 5.   Please visit our website, MetroplexRepublicans.com, for details and to sign up on our email list.

Robert Schlein is president and Rudy Oeftering is vice president of Metroplex Republicans, formerly known as the “original” Log Cabin Dallas Chapter.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

It’s official: JR’s is getting a ground-level patio

We’ve heard rumors for months about an upcoming remodel of the 31-year-old JR’s Bar & Grill Dallas, billed as “Texas’ most successful gay nightclub.” This morning, those rumors were finally confirmed.

Rick Espaillat, a spokesman for JR’s owner Caven Enterprises, reports that work began today on a month-long project which, among other things, will give the club a ground-level patio along Cedar Springs Road. When we asked how much of the interior of the club will be eliminated for the patio, Espaillat replied, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

The last time JR’s underwent significant renovations was 1998, when the second floor and balcony were added, Espaillat said. The club will remain open during the project. Here’s his full statement:

Work began this morning on the new series of improvements to JR’s Bar & Grill Dallas.

The project will bring better, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks with new trees; better views from the existing upstairs patio, and a new downstairs patio that will give JR’s guests a front-row seat to the gay Crossroads. Work is expected to take a month to complete.

“We’re always looking for ways to grow and improve.  These changes will add to the variety of JR’s, enhance the character of our neighborhood and add to the beautification of Cedar Springs as well” said Gregg Kilhoffer, President of Caven Enterprises.

JR’s Bar & Grill Dallas was created in 1980.  Though still in its original location, the iconic club has grown through three renovations to become Texas’ most successful gay nightclub.  It is owned and managed by Caven Enterprises, an employee-owned company with over 100 staff members.

—  John Wright

Hunt draws another challenger in District 14

Chad Lasseter

IT Sales professional says differences of opinion with council incumbent led to candidacy

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Chad Lasseter said this week that he decided to run for the District 14 Dallas City Council seat after meeting with incumbent Angela Hunt in January and discovering he has “a basic difference in philosophy” with her.

While he called Hunt extremely gracious for taking the time to meet with him, he said he found that he differed from her on how to approach a number of issues.

“From that meeting, I found I would do things differently” in a number of areas, Lasseter said.

Lasseter said one of District 14’s biggest challenges has always been Lowest Greenville Avenue, where business owners are often pitted against neighborhood groups on questions of parking for area bars and restaurants, noise, litter and destruction of property by patrons.

While a solution for the area is in the works, Lasseter said that the problem has been around for years and that only after Hunt faced opposition in her re-election was anything done.

Lasseter also said he would have taken a different approach to solving the area’s problems, and that he would have chosen an approach that didn’t involve homeowners in the area giving up property rights.

Walking up and down Cedar Springs Road and talking to storeowners along the way as he talked to a reporter, Lasseter said he believes the gay entertainment district should be used as a model for the East Dallas area. But the gayborhood has issues, too.

Lighting in Oak Lawn on streets around the Crossroads area has been a problem. Lasseter wants to expand sodium arc lighting into the neighborhood to increase safety.

Lasseter said the deciding issue in his decision to run was property taxes. He called Hunt’s vote to increase taxes last year the deciding vote on the council and said raising taxes on senior citizens”criminal.”

“These are people who spent their lives paying into our system,” Lasseter said. “These people are, for the most part, on fixed incomes and we’re now running them out of their homes.”

He wants to freeze property taxes for seniors, look into rolling them back and implement a senior tax cap.

“I’d like to see a government that’s more responsive,” he said. “I’d like to see a government that’s more transparent and a government that’s more accountable.”

Lasseter called public safety the first responsibility of local government.

“We have mounting debt services and a budget shortfall,” he said.

With a billion dollar budget, 75 percent is for essential services, which doesn’t leave much fat, he said.

There are three ways to balance a budget, Lasseter said: Raising taxes and cutting spending are the first two, but he’s against tax increases and said that there’s little room for cuts that allow for maintaining the quality of life the city’s residents expect.

The third is to increase revenue and Lasseter believes there are a number of things the city can do in that area.

“Create additional revenue and grow the tax base,” he said.

Lasseter said that he’d like to make it easier to do business with the city by limiting the amount of paperwork and permits a business needs to operate in Dallas. And he called public-private partnerships like the Lee Park Conservancy another example of how the city can work with organizations to increase revenue.

Lasseter said he has been looking into the possibility of bringing the Texas Rangers to Dallas once their lease at the Ballpark in Arlington expires in 2018, a move he said would generate more revenue.

Creating incentives for businesses to return to the city from the suburbs and to move here from out of state would help the tax base grow, Lasseter said, pointing at the growth and development in downtown Austin as a model.

He mentioned a number of quality of life issues he supports including maintaining the parks, expanding rail and trolley lines and repairing roads.

Throughout the campaign period, Lasseter said he plans to issue platform position papers. The first will be about public safety and include his ideas on reducing crime and lessening the burden on the police force. Others will follow.

Lasseter, 37, is director of sales and services for NorthWind Consulting Services. He lives in the Hollywood Heights neighborhood of East Dallas.

He said that a number of public forums are being planned for the candidates to discuss the issues as the campaign progresses. •

Meet the candidate campaign launch party at Barley House, 5612 SMU Blvd. Feb. 19 from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, visit ChadLasseter.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Borders to close West Village store

You may have heard Borders books is in dire straits owing millions to publishers and having thus declared bankruptcy. But now we hear that the West Village store is among 10 stores in Texas to be closed. NBC posted on their site that clearance sales could start as soon as this weekend at the stores marked for closure.

The West Village location has already posted this on their site:

This store is expected to close no later than the end of April. We?ve enjoyed serving the many customers who have shopped this store over the years. Please use our Store Locator to find another store in your area, or purchase from our vast selection of books and other merchandise here on Borders.com.

What sucks is that pulls another bookstore out of the gayborhood. Crossroads Bookstore’s closing a few years ago was monumental to the ‘hood because that was the gay bookstore of Dallas. Half Price Books used to have a location off Oak Lawn as well. Borders in West Village has a respectable LGBT section, and its closure is a bummer for the neighborhood — gay and straight.

The Preston location in Dallas is also the home for the Lesbian Book Club, which meets monthly. I’ve called their contact number for a response but only reached voicemail.

—  Rich Lopez

Spinning his wheels?

Gay racer Evan Darling needs major sponsors to keep his motor running

mikey rox  | mikey@paperroxscissors.com

EvanDarling1
REVVED UP | As NASCAR’s only out racer, Evan Darling stands out — but still can’t nab a sponsor.

Professional racecar driver Evan Darling is at a crossroads in his career: His engine is revved, but he’s running out of gas.

“The LGBT community has been very supportive and happy to see me doing what I am for the community — just not financially,” says the 42-year-old openly gay NASCAR athlete.

A lack of sponsorship may force the adrenaline junkie to trade in his fire suit for a grease monkey’s jumpsuit sooner than later.

“Things are not looking good for next season and I may have to go back to being a mechanic,” admits Darling, who competes in NASCAR’s Grand Am series. “I have had many say I would not get support, and I would hate to prove them right. I will always put effort into trying to get sponsors and race on a pro level — and

I have put all of my resources into it over the last few years. But the well is dry.”

Darling had his first pro race in April 2007, finishing 7th out of 37 starters, and raced Daytona in 2008. He was also on the Out 100 list in 2007.

But since 2009 he’s been almost raceless on the circuit. He’s secured local sponsors in Florida races, but none big enough to foot the $450,000 price tag needed to fund a full season. If he doesn’t snag the money before Jan. 5, he’ll miss the first race of the season and probably have to go back to being a full-time mechanic.

“I’m at the end of my financial ability to survive and will need to start over,” he says.

It’s not been for lack of effort. Darling approached LGBT political supporters with the promise of using their money to place a Trevor Project logo on his car to bring awareness of the initiative, but such supporters are not typically interested in sporting events… odd, considering that Gay Inc. makes a big stink about wanting pro athletes to live and play out-and-proud.

“I told my publicist I would be way more popular if I wore a pink sequin blouse under my racing suit,” Darling quips. “But that’s not me — I’m a regular guy that happens to be gay.”

Much to the chagrin of his teammates. Professional sports are notoriously homophobic, perhaps none more so than NASCAR, which is perceived to cater to rednecks, rappers and religious organizations — groups not particularly fond of the LGBT community.

“Many people have made derogatory remarks about my sexuality. I was fully expecting that going in [to racing],” he says. “I am a mechanic by trade and have had to put up with this mentality my whole life, so it’s not new to me.”

In fact, Darling’s dealt with bigots since childhood. His father, an attorney, represented the Irish-American war veterans in preventing Boston’s LGBT community from participating in its annual Veterans Day parade. His brother Brian is director for U.S. Senate Relations for the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, which famously feuded with Rosie O’Donnell on Larry King Live. Even his mother is still in denial about her son’s sexuality. But at least he can shrug that last one off.

“Things are a bit better now between us,” he says. “I visit them at Christmas and sometimes if I am in the area I stop in. I also call them every week as they’re getting up there in age.”

Darling’s tepid relationship with his family is indicative of how he’s approaching this new chapter in his life — one that may see him fixing cars instead of racing them. Much like his parents, he suggests, NASCAR just isn’t ready for a gay driver — and, as he’s realized, changing the minds of the unwilling is an uphill challenge.

“I think it would be great for the sport and the LGBT community,” he says, contemplating what would happen if someone like Sprint Cup superstar Jeff Gordon came out of the closet. “[But] there would be huge fallout from the NASCAR community. It would be very difficult for anyone that came out with that kind of career. I’m sure it would be interesting to see how his sponsors would react.”

The reality is, some of his current sponsors would certainly abandon him. But with the media frenzy an announcement of that caliber would create, new sponsors would surely step up to the pit, checkbooks in hand — probably none faster than Gay Inc. Because as Darling knows all too well: “It’s all about the bottom line” …. even if that should be, “supporting the community that supports you.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hope floats

Two Cedar Springs institutions — 1 new, 1 old —make their debuts in this year’s Pride parade

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

MAKING AN ENTRANCE | Jorge Rivas’ shot of prominent LGBT faces, above, will be marched out Sunday on the ilume float; the staff of Hunky’s, below left, retooled their float idea in a hurry. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

TEXAS FREEDOM PARADE
Proceeds east along
Cedar Springs Road from
Wycliffe Avenue to
N. Hall Street. 2 p.m.

……………………………………

Hunky’s has been a Crossroads institution for 25 years — though most of that half a block over from its current location. The gayborhood and the burger stop are officially symbiotic.

So it may surprise those who have watched the Alan Ross Freedom Parade from Hunky’s patio to know this year marks the eatery’s debut as a float entrant. And owner Rick Barton is a bit nervous.

“I kinda got into it a little late,” he admits.

Barton was sounding a bit frazzled just days before Pride, figuring how the hamburger joint would celebrate its coming out. Barton researched the idea of having a float constructed, but he and his crew opted to go simple this year — mostly because he has a restaurant to think about.

““That day is busy for us — the parade obviously means good business,” he says. “So we decided not to go with a big float and toned it down to a vehicle with some of our employees handing coupons out and guys along the side of our Jeep performing.”

Regardless of what the restaurant enters, the real question is: Why now? A quarter century is a long time to wait to join in the parade.


“We just had our anniversary and I just thought, ‘It’s time to be in,’” Barton says. “Even though we’re in the center of the community and show our Pride everyday, it lets people see we are here and feel a need to be in.”

His decision coincides nicely with the spot’s new digs. Hunky’s anchored the northwest corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton, becoming an iconic location for the neighborhood. But this spring, they jumped across the street, taking over the corner left vacant by Crossroads Market. Change was hard though Barton received enthusiastic response from the regulars.

But the move wasn’t just a physical one. Relocating mere yards from the former spot has affected his eatery and the employees in only good ways. That attitude is coming through in their first parade appearance on Sunday.

“There’s a renewed invigoration with the new space,” he says. “There we became limited by what we could do and it started to become staid. We were just riding the boat. Here, the employees are responding well, the customers are, too. It’s a feel- good kind of vibe.”

That translates into a team effort for Hunky’s preparation for Sunday. Barton might make it sound like it was just thrown together, but he smiles with pride in his teams from both the Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff locations in working to get it done.

“It’s all come together pretty quickly,” he says. “But with the employees helping out and coming over from the other location, it’s become a Hunky’s family kinda gig. One of our employees is one of the guys performing alongside the Jeep.”

It took the ilume just a year to make its impact on the ‘hood and it is living up to its commitment to be part of the community with its inaugural Pride float. The living spaces are snazzy; nosh spots Dish and Red Mango seem to be thriving, and the pool is becoming legendary for parties and Facebook pics. The ilume Gallerie, however, takes the lead for their float in the parade, thanks to gallery director Ronald Radwanski.

“We’ll have 48-by-72-inch panels of portraits on our float,” Radwanski says. “Some people will be on the float and others like me will be walking along.”

The Gallerie will be coasting along with a mobile museum. The gallery on wheels ties into the Faces of Life exhibit now at the Gallerie, which highlightsluminaries in Dallas’ LGBT community with larger-than-life portraits, each individual adorned with a large red ribbon. The shots were taken by photographer Jorge Rivas, who made a splash at the Gallerie earlier this year with his images of fashion and culture.

Going big is a huge undertaking, but Radwanski assures they are on schedule.

“They’ve started constructing it already and the enlarged portraits are being printed,” he says. “I’m so excited that we can mark a year of the ilume with this float in the parade. That it also benefits LifeWalk makes it much more so.”

Big or small, young or old, both establishments look beyond what they have going in the parade and instead, a reveling in the idea of being  a part of it all. Besides, things could change for 2011.

“After this time, we might just go all out with the big float idea next year,” Barton says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Looks like Panda’s got an extreme makeover

The next time you’re cruising the Crossroads and get a hankering for broccoli and beef, your reliable Panda’s spot is going to look a whole lot different. Their website announces the grand opening of Mr. Panda’s Restaurant and Bar on July 12. By the looks of the snazzy site, hip graphics and photo gallery, the place is looking less like a restaurant and more like an ultra lounge. I guess they wanted to fit in a little better into the surrounding nightlife.

I couldn’t seem to access the menu but the eats will still be available till late for those post-dance munchies. The restaurant will stay open every day until 4 a.m. We just wish they would serve these cute cupcakes. Seriously, these would be endangered and then extinct in no time.

—  Rich Lopez

More info on Saturday’s Prop 8 protest in Dallas

If you’re interested in helping out with Saturday’s Prop 8 protest in Dallas but couldn’t make last night’s organizational meeting, there’s plenty of contact info and volunteer opportunities after the jump.

—  John Wright