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

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