Dallas Tavern Guild to charge admission to Festival in Lee Park during gay Pride

CHANGES COMING | Spectators line Cedar Springs to watch the 2010 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. Traditionally, the crowds have trekked down to Lee Park after the parade each year for the free Festival in Lee Park. This year, though, the park will be fenced in and there will be a $5 admission fee. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)
Michael Doughman

Doughman says increased expenses, dangerous drinking levels in park led to changes

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman confirmed this week that organizers will be charging a $5 admission fee to the annual Festival in Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in September.

Admission to the parade will still be free. The Tavern Guild, an organization of nightclubs catering to the LGBT community, took over planning, organizing and presenting the parade in the early 1980s.

Doughman said the park will be fenced in for the festival, due to new requirements by the city for outdoor events. Those attending the festival also will no longer be able to bring in coolers and glass containers of all kinds are banned.

The changes were prompted, Doughman said, by changes in requirements imposed by the city and by “polite warnings” from Dallas police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that drinking during the festival was getting seriously out of hand.

But Doughman also acknowledged that the admission fee is intended to increase revenue, too.

“Being able to donate proceeds back to our beneficiary organizations has always been a major focus of the parade. But ever since the Homeland Security Act passed after 9/11, and the security requirements have gone up, the money we are able to donate back to our beneficiaries has been dwindling,” Doughman said. “We used to be able to donate $20,000 to $25,000, and we had three or four beneficiaries. Now, we’re lucky if we have $7,500 or $8,000 to give back to our one beneficiary [Youth First Texas].”

Doughman said that the cost of meeting city requirements has tripled since 2001. Part of that, he said, is due to increased security requirements in place since the passage of the Homeland Security Act.

“It used to be that we had to have 35 to 45 officers on duty for the parade. Last year, there were 102 officers,” he said. “We have to rent more barricades for blocking of the streets, and those barricades cost more to rent now than before. We have no control over those costs. On top of that, the materials and equipment we need to put on the parade costs more now, too — the port-o-lets, the radios, the golf carts. We’ve done nothing to reflect that cost back to [parade and festival attendees] until now.

“We think $5 is a minimal charge for people to attend, and charging that small admission fee means we may possibly be able to give more back to our beneficiaries, and maybe we can have two or three beneficiaries, like we used to do, instead of just one,” he said.

Doughman said the other main reason for fencing in the park and charging admission is to give parade organizers better control over the crowd.

“The last two or three years, it’s gotten really bad” in terms of celebration attendees drinking to excess and ending up being a danger to themselves and others, Doughman said.
“The Dallas police officers have been very kind about the way they have handled it, but we have been warned by the police and by TABC, and we had to be proactive in doing something to address the issue. It is a huge liability for [the Tavern Guild],” he said.

Doughman said that even though hard liquor has always been prohibited in the park, attendees have become more brazen about ignoring that ban.

“That’s a licensing issue. We only have a license for beer at the celebration, no hard liquor. If TABC were to do a sweep through there and find hard liquor, then we would be liable. They would take away our license and the city would never give us another permit for the parade or the celebration. That would be the end of Dallas Pride,” he said.

Doughman said incidences of excessive intoxication and underage drinking have increased noticeably over the past two or three years, and that police warned organizers the problem had to be addressed.

“There have been people walking around with open bottles of vodka. Last year, there were two young girls with a big jug of whiskey,” he said. “It’s gotten out of hand, and we have to be proactive in addressing the problem. Last year, we had two girls come up who had gotten separated from their friends. They were so intoxicated they couldn’t even speak coherently. We couldn’t even understand them when they told us their names and who they were looking for.

“What if someone comes to the festival, gets that drunk and then leaves the park and walks out into the road in front of a car and is hurt or killed. We are liable for that. Or what if they get drunk at the festival and then get behind the wheel of a car and hurt or kill someone else?” he added.

Doughman noted that organizers “have no issue” with people bringing bottled water into the park, but no outside liquor or beer will be allowed. “TABC will have their eye on us this year, and we have to manage the alcohol better,” he said.

Doughman said the last thing organizers want to do is take all the fun out of the annual Pride celebration, and said that those who pay the $5 fee to attend the celebration in the park will get to see “bigger-name entertainment” than in past years, as well as have access to improved food service.

“We don’t want to take the fun out of things, but we have to do what we have to do to make sure this is a safe event and to make sure that we follow the rules and make enough money to pay our costs and still have money for our beneficiary,” Doughman said. “We want everyone to have a good time, and we want them to do that in a safe environment.”

—  John Wright

Fort Worth settles with Rainbow Lounge patrons

CASE CLOSED | It has been a year and a half since Chad Gibson was injured in the Rainbow Lounge raid. This week, the Fort Worth City Council approved a $400,000 settlement payment.

Chad Gibson to receive $400,000; TABC agreement not yet signed

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday, March 22, voted unanimously and without discussion to accept a consent agenda that included an award of $400,000 to Chad Gibson, the man who received head injuries in the 2009 Rainbow Lounge raid.

George Armstrong, another man injured that night, settled for a lower amount. Because his award was less than $50,000, the council did not have to vote on that settlement.

The two injured men entered into mediation with the city of Fort Worth and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Any agreement from settlement negotiations with TABC has not been signed. The state’s approval process takes longer than the city’s.

Don Tittle, the attorney who represented Gibson and Armstrong in mediation with the city, said, “We thought it was a fair resolution.”

Adam Seidel is a defense attorney who has been working with Gibson and Armstrong since criminal charges were filed the night of the raid. Those charges have since been dropped.

Seidel said that both Gibson and Armstrong would have preferred the events at Rainbow Lounge hadn’t happened at all.

“An experience like that impacts you for some period of time,” Seidel said. “You don’t just put that into a small box and put it away.”

Gibson continues to receive medical treatment related to his head injury. Armstrong had a rotator cuff injury and will likely face surgery.

“This will make finishing that easier for him,” Seidel said.

Jason P. Lamers, the manager of Fort Worth’s Office of Media and Public Affairs, sent the official city response. He said the council acted on advice of the legal counsel, and the intention was to limit the city’s financial exposure.

“This settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the city, but rather a recognition of the nature of civil rights litigation,” said Lamers. “It was city staff’s recommendation — and the City Council agreed — that, considering the circumstances, not only is this settlement the right thing to do, but it is also in the best interest of the city and taxpayers.”

Tittle wasn’t sure why the city included a statement of no admission of liability.

“We released all claims as part of the deal,” he said.

He thought they might have been concerned that since the two-year statute of limitations had not passed, someone else might come forward with a suit.

“But it waters down the good will,” he said.

And although Fort Worth, and presumably TABC, claim no liability for the incident, Tittle said, “$400,000 speaks for itself.”

Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth, a group formed in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, only commented on the progress that has been made since the event.

He said that this was the first time the city of Fort Worth had ever entered into mediation without a federal lawsuit being filed. He also said it was the first time Fort Worth had ever compensated a member of the LGBT community for unfair treatment by the city.

David Mack Henderson, also with Fairness Fort Worth, was at the city council meeting. He said that a number of reporters with TV cameras were at City Hall and requested interviews but he refused. He said Fort Worth’s LGBT community is moving on and that there was nothing to talk about.

“We’re just part of the city — the way it should be,” Henderson said.

Lamers said that you couldn’t talk about the Rainbow Lounge story without talking about the strides the LGBT community has made in Fort Worth.

“Fort Worth has made remarkable progress to become an even more inclusive city than it ever was,” he said. “That’s a credit to our City Council, our police department led by Chief Jeff Halstead and the GLBT leaders in the city’s workforce and in our communities. We’re very proud of theprogress that has been made.”

After the Rainbow Lounge raid, Halstead made significant changes to the police department by clarifying the department’s policies on conducting bar checks, adding an LGBT liaison and, recently, enacting an anti-bias policing policy to strengthen existing rules against discrimination by officers.

The council voted in October 2009 to add transgender protections to its nondiscrimination policies. The council also appointed a city manager’s diversity task force and has approved 14 of 15 recommendations the task force made, including offering domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Anable said that the city has worked closely with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association to stage this year’s parade. Pride will be held downtown for the 30th anniversary making it more visible than it’s ever been, he said.

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

—  John Wright

Fort Worth City Council approves settlement with Rainbow Lounge patrons Gibson, Armstrong

Tom Anable
Tom Anable

The Fort Worth City Council voted without discussion this morning to award a settlement of $400,000 to Chad Gibson, the Rainbow Lounge patron who was injured during the Police Department’s raid of the gay bar in 2009.

Also approved was a settlement with Rainbow Lounge patron George Armstrong, who was also injured. Because that amount awarded to Armstrong is less than $50,000, it did not need to be approved by the council.

David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth was at the council meeting during the vote. He said no one signed up to speak at the end of the meeting. He said TV cameras were at City Hall, but no one from his group was giving interviews.

“We’re just part of the city — the way it should be,” Henderson said. “Moving on. Nothing to talk about.”

Officer Sara Straten, the Fort Worth Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community, was scheduled to speak to TV news this afternoon about the improved relations between the city and the LGBT community, according to Henderson. Straten was appointed in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

Tom Anable, of Fairness Fort Worth, was in Austin for the anti-bullying hearings in the Senate Education Committee this morning but called Dallas Voice during the recess. Anable called the settlement unprecedented. He said this is the first time the city of Fort Worth has entered mediation without a federal lawsuit being filed. He also said it was the first time the city made a settlement with someone from the LGBT community.

Still pending is the settlement between Gibson and Armstrong and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which conducted the raid along with the FWPD. While there is an agreement in place, TABC still must review and sign it.

—  David Taffet

TABC, Fort Worth consider settlement with patrons injured in Rainbow Lounge raid

Tom Anable

Fort Worth city administrators are recommending that the City Council approve a settlement with Chad Gibson, one of the patrons who was injured in the Rainbow Lounge raid. The pending settlement is a result of mediation among the city, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Gibson’s attorneys.

The amount of the settlement from the city is $400,000. The amount from TABC has not been released.

The raid by Fort Worth police officers and TABC agents occurred on June 28, 2008, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Gibson suffered a head injury. George Armstrong was also injured and is included in the settlement. Pending felony charges against Gibson and Armstrong were dropped toward the end of last year before the mediation began.

Three Fort Worth police officers received short suspensions, and two TABC agents were fired, as a result of the incident.

Tom Anable, a founder of Fairness Fort Worth, a group formed in the wake of the raid, said he’s pleased that the city had come to an agreement.

“I think that the willingness of the city to enter into mediation without a federal lawsuit being filed is an indication of their willingness to move forward with our community,” Anable said.

Anable said this is the first time the city has entered into mediation without the threat of a federal lawsuit and the first time a city and TABC entered into joint negotiations.

“That speaks volumes of the city and of TABC,” Anable said. “No one wants to go backward, and that’s the story.”

While Anable said he has no inside information about the negotiations, he added, “As with any mediation, it’s successful if neither side is really happy but both are satisfied.”

Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for TABC, said, “TABC has engaged in settlement discussions with [Gibson] attorney Don Tittle. At this time the parties have agreed not to comment on those discussions until any resolution is finalized.”

Adam Seidel, an attorney for Gibson and Armstrong, was not available for comment this morning.

The item is on the agenda for Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting.

Gibson, who was hospitalized after the raid, is still receiving treatment for the injuries he sustained.

—  David Taffet

TABC renews contract with RCD

Carolyn Beck

Beck says center will provide diversity training for about 50 new TABC employees

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — A spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission confirmed this week that the agency plans to continue LGBT diversity training for its employees, which she called “one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said Thursday, March 17 that the agency has signed a new contract for LGBT diversity training with Resource Center Dallas.

A few months after the raid of the Fort Worth gay bar in 2009, TABC paid Resource Center $14,212 to train all of the agency’s roughly 700 employees — in a series of 24 two-hour sessions in 11 locations across the state.

This time, Resource Center will train the roughly 50 TABC employees who’ve been hired since the initial round of training was completed last year. The second round of training, at a cost of $2,700, will take place during sessions in Dallas, Houston and Austin between March and July.

“We thought it was important at the time for our employees to receive diversity training like this, and it’s still important for the same reasons that it was before,” Beck said. “It really only makes sense if you continue the training. … The training is one of the positive things that came out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

TABC, whose agents raided the bar along with officers from the Fort Worth Police Department in June 2009, later fired three employees for policy violations related to the incident.

TABC Commissioner Alan Steen has publicly apologized for the raid on at least two occasions.

TABC reportedly is the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all of its employees.

Beck, who also serves as TABC’s liaison to the LGBT community, said she doesn’t believe diversity training would have prevented the Rainbow Lounge raid.

However, she said the training has been beneficial to the agency.

“The one thing about it, across the board, it creates a lot of discussion, which I think is in itself a positive thing,” Beck said. “The training pushes some people’s boundaries, which I believe is the intent.”

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the new training contract is the culmination of efforts that began last spring, when TABC solicited input on its strategic plan.

“I think this shows that TABC is committed to treating the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with respect and dignity by having all of its employees learn about who we are,” said McDonnell, who helps conduct the LGBT diversity training.

“We did surveys and proved that there was a demonstrated increase in knowledge about the LGBT community among the employees who took part in the training,” McDonnell added. “It shows that what we did is making a difference throughout the state, and that’s extremely gratifying.”

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

—  John Wright

‘Let the Blue Serve You’

Dallas Police Department traffic officers, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will all be on hand at the Starbucks at 6123 Greenville Ave., from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday, March 11 to participate in an even called “Cops & Coffee: Let the Blue Serve You.”

The event is sponsored by the Dallas Police Department and Starbucks Coffee, in preparation for Spring Break, and will give those who attend the chance to the officers, troopers and agents about “traffic laws, alcohol laws and driving on tollways,” according to the flyer e-mailed to us by the DPD’s Public Information Office.

—  admin

From coffee to martinis: Buli gets a makeover

Scott Whittall

Cafe owner hopes change to Shakers piano bar brings more people back to Cedar Springs

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Scott Whittall hoped to have his new piano bar Shakers open on Cedar Springs Road by February, but new Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission rules kicked in recently and have delayed the process.

Now, before a license application process begins, a sign announcing the application must be posted for 60 days.

That sign is now posted in the front window of Buli, which will become Shakers. Whittall said he is hoping for a May opening.

The name Buli will be retired, Whittall said. The new name of the larger space will be Shakers. Whittall said it will be a piano bar, but food will be served, too.

Once the 60-day waiting period ends, the application process begins. Previously, the sign didn’t have to be posted until the process began.

Further delays could result from the flood of new applications TABC has received as a result of the wet/dry election in Dallas County in November. More than 50 locations have already applied for licenses in Oak Cliff. Only a few have been approved so far.

Whittall and his partner, Alan Goode, have already signed a lease on the property next to Buli that was formerly occupied by Zen Clips. The two spaces have been listed as one by the city since the early 1990s when Oak Lawn Flower Mart occupied both.

Whittall hopes that will speed the permitting process for renovations.

Whittall said business on Cedar Springs was up and down. He hoped that Shakers would attract a larger crowd.

Hours of operation haven’t been decided, Whittall said, but the bar would remain open until 2 a.m. Food would be a part of the mix, he said, but sandwiches served in lunch boxes would probably go away.

“We want to bring it up a level,” he said.

The Zen Clips space gives the new business a back entrance opening to the parking lots. And while interior plans are not finalized, Whittall said he expected the bar to be where the serving counter now stands and the stage will be in the new space. The patio will be extended and partially enclosed.

While owners are wading through the approval process for a liquor license, Buli will remain open, serving food and coffee.

The piano bar format has been a staple on Cedar Springs for years. Alexandre’s was the last with a piano. Before that,  Michaels, which was in the building now occupied by Woody’s, was a popular piano bar.

Pekers on Oak Lawn Avenue has live entertainment with Gary Poe performing at the piano every Friday night.

Bill’s Hideaway on Buena Vista Avenue closed in 2009. Lonzie Hershner, who operates the Tin Room and Drama Room, has leased the space and is doing extensive renovations.

He said that he is just beginning the liquor and dance hall application process.

Hershner said he plans to open the patio during the day serving smoothies with water for pets hoping to attract people coming off the Katy Trail. His vision is for the front house to be a piano-jazz bar.

Hershner said the bar will be named Marty’s Hideaway in memory of his brother, who opened the other two bars and died suddenly last year.

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

—  John Wright

City drops charges stemming from Rainbow Lounge raid in July 2009

Man who suffered brain injury in raid had been facing public intoxication, misdemeanor assault charges

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Attorney’s office announced last week that it had dropped all charges against Chad Gibson and other individuals arrested in the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

Gibson was hospitalized for a head injury he incurred during the raid, although questions remain about whether Gibson was injured when an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission slammed him against a wall in the club and then threw him to the floor, or when Gibson fell on the sidewalk outside while he was handcuffed.

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer after TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson groped him while he was attempting to arrest Gibson.

However, Aller and the second TABC agent involved in the raid, as well as their supervising sergeant, were fired after TABC officials conducted an internal investigation and determined that the agents should not have raided the bar in the first place.

An internal investigation conducted by the Fort Worth Police Department also indicated that FWPD officers involved in the raid had violated procedures, and three officers were suspended for a total of five days as a result.

A second Rainbow Lounge patron, George Armstrong, said he suffered severe bruising and a muscle strain when police arrested him. He was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Adam Seidel, attorney for both Gibson and Armstrong, said he had received a notice from the court in the first part of last week that Gibson’s case had been set for jury trial on Dec. 7. Shortly afterward, however, he was notified by the court clerk that the charges had been dismissed.

“I am glad they did the right thing and dropped their charges against these two victims. It shows a commitment to move forward,” Seidel said.

City officials issued a statement Friday afternoon, Nov. 19, saying that Class C misdemeanor charges stemming from the Rainbow Lounge raid against Dylan Brown and Jose Macias, as well as Gibson and Armstrong, had been dropped, but declined to comment further.

According to the statement, the charges that have been dismissed were public intoxication charges against Jose A. Macias, Dylan T. Brown, Armstrong and Gibson. A charge of assault by contact against Gibson was also dropped.

Gibson suffered bleeding in his brain and is still receiving treatment for his injuries, according to Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

FFW was formed in the wake of the raid initially to help witnesses give testimony for both FWPD’s and TABC’s internal investigations. The organization has since become more formally organized and has been directly involved in negotiations with city officials that played a role in the vote to add protections for transgenders to the city’s nondiscrimination policy and in the recent vote to offer partner benefits to the city’s LGBT employees.

Anable said Thursday, Nov. 18, that Fairness Fort Worth is pleased with the city’s decision to drop the charges against Gibson and Armstrong.

“I think they finally just realized that the facts of the case didn’t support the charges,” Anable said. “I think this is a real positive step forward. It’s a show of good faith as we continue to resolve the issues related to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

BREAKING: Fort Worth city attorney drops charges against Rainbow Lounge patrons

This photo, taken by Chuck Potter inside Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009, is believed to show TABC agents arresting Chad Gibson

A spokesman in the office of Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief has just confirmed reports we received earlier this morning that the city attorney’s office has dropped all charges against Chad Gibson and George Armstrong in connection with the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

The spokesman said the city would release a statement later this afternoon, so watch Instant Tea for updates.

Gibson was hospitalized for a head injury he incurred during the raid, although questions remain about whether Gibson was injured when an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission slammed him against a wall in the club and then threw him to the floor, or when Gibson fell on the sidewalk outside while he was handcuffed.

Armstrong, who said he suffered severe bruising and a muscle strain when police arrested him, was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer after TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson groped him while he was attempting to arrest Gibson. However, Aller and the second TABC agent involved in the raid, as well as their supervising sergeant, were fired after TABC officials conducted an internal investigation and determined that the agents should not have raided the bar in the first place.

An internal investigation conducted by the Fort Worth Police Department also indicated that FWPD officers involved in the raid had violated procedures, and three officers were suspended for a total of five days as a result.

Adam Seidel, attorney for both Gibson and Armstrong, said he had received a notice from the court earlier this week that Gibson’s case had been set for jury trial on Dec. 7. Shortly afterward, however, he was notified by the court clerk that the charges had been dismissed.

“I am glad they did the right thing and dropped their charges against these two victims. It shows a commitment to move forward,” Seidel said.

Gibson suffered bleeding in his brain and is still receiving treatment for his injuries, according to Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

FFW was formed in the wake of the raid initially to help witnesses give testimony for both FWPD’s and TABC’s internal investigations. The organization has since become more formally organized and has been directly involved in negotiations with city officials that played a role in the vote to add protections for transgenders to the city’s nondiscrimination policy and in the recent vote to offer partner benefits to the city’s LGBT employees.

Anable said Thursday that Fairness Fort Worth is pleased with the city’s decision to drop the charges against Gibson and Armstrong.

“I think they finally just realized that the facts of the case didn’t support the charges,” Anable said. “I think this is a real positive step forward. It’s a show of good faith as we continue to resolve the issues related to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge.”

—  admin

UPDATE: Wet/dry issue more clearly unclear

Carolyn Beck
Carolyn Beck

In the July 30 Dallas Voice, I wrote about the confusion over whether the law allows a citywide election to override previous elections. Carolyn Beck of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent over state regulations indicating that if a Justice of the Peace district holds a wet/dry election, that election supersedes any city election. Only another JP district election can override the previous election.

In the article, I mentioned two previous wet/dry elections affecting Oak Cliff, but upon further research I found two others.

In the 1890s, the city of Oak Cliff went dry. In 1960, JP District 7, which includes Oak Cliff, voted to remain dry. But two other elections occurred in the interim.

In 1944, 11 years after the repeal of Prohibition, Dallas County held a countywide election to make the entire county wet. In 1956, another election turned Oak Cliff — and all areas south of the Trinity River — dry. That’s more than JP District 7.

But the 1960 election was a JP district election and to overturn that election, a new JP district election would have to be held. The law clearly states that only a JP district election can overturn a JP district election on wet/dry issues.

—  David Taffet