Flashing lights won’t fix Cedar Springs’ No. 1 problem: Shabbiness

Community must work together to spiff up our strip, which wasn’t even included in Dallas’ ‘Complete Streets’ program until recently

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

Afriend and I went to a Jan. 12 meeting at the Round-Up Saloon, hosted by Dallas City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano. The meeting was called to address the epidemic of pedestrian traffic accidents on Cedar Springs Road.

We listened to a city engineer, other city staff, a police officer and local businesspeople. The engineer showed us slides of Cedar Springs as it is and as the city proposed to change it in three stages.

If you read David Taffet’s article on Page 6 of the Jan. 27 issue of Dallas Voice, you know what’s proposed. And if you’ve been on Cedar Springs, you can’t have missed the most obvious change: yellow warning flashers, first at Knight Street, then at Reagan.

They are supposed to flash 24/7 for a month, then only when a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. However, when I left the Oak Lawn Library on Tuesday, Jan. 31, the flasher at Knight — just in front of the library and the corner of Ilume — was not flashing. Hmmm.

I also went to the Cedar Springs Merchant Association meeting Jan. 25. There, Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Mayor Mike Rawlings, took questions and listened to comments during the first half of the meeting. I thought the most important point was made by Luke Crosland, ilume’s developer: The area generates $30 million a year in alcohol sales.

That’s a huge amount of revenue. With the next phase of ilume scheduled for development, and with more and more apartments replacing the area’s older homes, no doubt that revenue stream will grow.

In the second part of the meeting, CSMA Executive Director Scott Whittall spoke of the traffic study the city will conduct throughout February to help officials make more decisions about traffic problems and solutions. Whittall also announced a new campaign, online and presumably in print, to market “The Strip on Cedar Springs.” (Go to TinyUrl.com/8yb7uj8 to enter the logo design contest.)

Finally, after asking CSMA attendees to sign up for one of two committees, “traffic problems” or “taxi solutions,” Whittall announced a whole calendar of events for the remainder of 2012. All are geared to attract locals and visitors to The Strip.

Sounds good.

And if more crosswalk lights, pedestrian signs and police patrols will keep people from being run down, that certainly is good.

But changing the behavior of pedestrians and drivers is not the main problem.

The main problem is shabbiness.

Drive slowly up and down Cedar Springs as I did on Tuesday at midday.

Look at the very different storefronts, the very disparate signage.

Look at the street, cracked and torn and unevenly marked.

Look at the sidewalks, also cracked and torn. In some places, curbs are high, in other places low, in still others slanted to accommodate the disabled. Holes as big as a boot are everywhere. Round metal whatevers are inserted along portions of the sidewalk holding what look like tall twigs. Even if the twigs spring to life next month, they will still look weird.

This is a major “entertainment district” in a major American city? This is our answer to Manhattan’s Great White Way or Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade?

Our area was not even included in Dallas’ Complete Streets planning. In fact, I had never heard of “Complete Streets” until it appeared on the city’s handout of short-term, medium-term, and long-term Cedar Springs Pedestrian Safety Improvements. On the handout, as you might guess, it was No. 12, a long-term option to “Review area for Complete Street design.”

Check out www.dallascompletestreets.com. You’ll see that nine areas have already been selected for attention and investment, apparently by city staff or consultants. You’ll also see a list of workshops held this past November and December, none in our area and none advertised in the Dallas Voice.

How do we get from shabby to spiffy? We talk to the Dallas City Council, we talk to the Cedar Springs Merchant Association, we talk to the Dallas Complete Streets planners, and we talk to one another. Perhaps we organize the equivalent of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, which works on conserving what’s best and reworking what’s not.

Today. We can start today. Each of us can make one phone call or write one email, and make one post on Facebook or Twitter.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

City unveils planned Cedar Springs improvements

Hunt, Medrano present plan to Merchants Association; will include new crosswalk lights, red lights

CedarSprings

GETTING THE SIGNAL | A pedestrian runs to avoid traffic as he crosses Cedar Springs Road at Knight Street on Thursday, Jan. 12. The intersection will get a traffic signal under a pedestrian safety plan unveiled by the city this week. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL CEDAR SPRINGS PEDESTRIAN SAFETY PLAN

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

In the wake of two pedestrian fatalities on the Cedar Springs strip in November, Dallas officials have unveiled a host of planned safety improvements ranging from crosswalk lights to a new traffic signal to, eventually, the possibility of narrowing the street to two lanes.

Dallas City Council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano, along with city staff, unveiled the changes during a closed-door meeting at the Round-Up Saloon on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 12, with representatives from the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, the Dallas Tavern Guild and other community groups.

The city’s Cedar Springs pedestrian safety plan calls for new flashing lights at crosswalks on Cedar Springs by the end of this month. A new traffic signal at Knight Street — where one of the pedestrians was killed — is scheduled to be installed by June.

“They did come with concrete solutions and things that they’re starting immediately, which is pretty exciting,” Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall said after the meeting. “This is a big deal, and we’re excited about it. It’s a situation where we’re taking something unfortunate and we’re going to get as much out of it as we can to improve the street.”

Hunt said prior to Thursday’s meeting that the improvements have already begun with the recent addition of three streetlights on Cedar Springs.

“I think it’s pretty aggressive,” Hunt said of the plan, “which it needs to be, given the fatalities and accidents we’ve had there.”

In addition to the two fatalities in November, two pedestrians were seriously injured when they were struck on Cedar Springs in December.

Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said the pedestrian safety plan represents “some great work from the city and those in attendance were most impressed with the ideas.”

“We had a great turn-out,” Doughman said. “Some ideas may need some tweaking but generally speaking, it was very well received. We will be doing an education campaign soon that we will ask the Dallas Voice to participate in. This will include pedestrian safety rules as well as driver safety issues.”

whittall.scott

Scott Whittall

According to a copy of the plan provided by Doughman, yellow warning flashers will be installed in both directions at four crosswalks on Cedar Springs, near Knight Street and Reagan Street. The two Reagan street crosswalks will remain in their current locations. The existing crosswalk at Knight Street will be moved to the south in front of Bank of America, while a crosswalk will be added between ilume and the city library.

Whittall said the flashing crosswalk lights will be at motorists’ eye level — and will be similar to the ones in place where Knox Street crosses the Katy Trail a few miles away. For the first 30 days, the crosswalk lights will flash around the clock, but after that pedestrians will have to activate them.

The city will also install a traffic signal at Cedar Springs and Knight Street by June, and begin an engineering study Feb. 1 to determine whether a traffic signal is warranted at Reagan Street. Also by June, the city will remove the right turn lane and island on the southeast corner of Cedar Springs and Douglas Avenue.

Other possible additions to the plan include banning left turns onto Cedar Springs from Reagan Street eastbound.

According to the plan, police have already increased traffic enforcement in the area, and Whittall said the Merchants Association has signed off on issuing jaywalking citations once the crosswalk improvements are in place.

“If we’re going to provide you with multiple safe crosswalk areas, they need to be utilized,” Whittall said. “You put your life at risk in an entertainment district if you try to cross somewhere that is not marked.”

Long term, the pedestrian safety plan calls for a “complete street” assessment of Cedar Springs, which could include revising the width of the street and reconfiguring lanes over the next three to five years.

“We’ve been harping and harping and harping on going to two lanes for a long time,” Whittall said. “Anything that would increase foot traffic on Cedar Springs and decrease traffic speed on Cedar Springs, we’re all for.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

CSMA planning to hire security

Merchants association would like to cut down on panhandling and vagrants along the retail side of Cedar Springs

SAFETY AND SECURITY  |  OutLines owner David Lester believes that a security guard will help make shopping on Cedar Springs a safer and more pleasant experience. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

SAFETY AND SECURITY | OutLines manager David Lester believes that a security guard will help make shopping on Cedar Springs a safer and more pleasant experience. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Cedar Springs Merchants Association decided to hire a guard to patrol the east side of Cedar Springs Road. Store owners and landlords will fund the additional security.

Caven Enterprises, owner of four bars on the west side Cedar Springs, has had guards patrol that side of the street for years.

CSMA President Scott Whittall said several incidents prompted hiring the guard.

“We deal with panhandlers and vagrants daily,” Whittall said.

A burglary at OutLines several weeks ago was among the incidents that prompted the move.

OutLines manager David Lester said, “A gentleman of dubious character was in the store.”

He said the salesman kept an eye on him. The man said he was going to purchase six pairs of jeans, selected a variety of sizes and styles and took them to the counter. The salesman followed the man to the cash register but as he walked behind the counter, the man grabbed the slacks and ran out the door.

Lester said the presence of security on the street would help.

“The security person will have a phone,” he said.

A salesman in a store could call the guard to come down to that store. Lester said it might not have prevented the theft, but the man would have been less likely to grab and run if a guard was standing outside the front door.

“The presence tends to tell people we’re watching,” he said.

He said at night during the week the parking in back can be dark and lonely. A security guard could watch people as they go to their cars.

However, the guard will not be full time. The days and hours will vary from week to week.

Lester said that it would be nice to have someone full-time but this is what they can afford. He said the fluctuating schedule would make it harder to announce which hours would be best for shoplifting. Some days the guard will patrol during the afternoon. Other days security will continue into the evening.

Caven Enterprises has employed security guards around its clubs and parking lots for years.

“We’ve had security as long as I’ve worked for this company,” said Caven president Gregg Kilhoffer, who has been with the company for 27 years.

On any one night Caven has three to seven guards — one at each club entrance, one in the parking lot, one in paid parking and one or two roaming the perimeter.

“Security is very important,” Kilhoffer said, “And I’m very proud of that.”

Kilhoffer, who is on the board of the merchant’s association, said he would like to see security during the day for the stores and restaurants.

“That would help us deal with people who harass customers,” he said.

Whittall said that CSMA is still interviewing companies to provide the protection required. He said he thought they had a deal with one company but that company wasn’t willing to patrol on a varying schedule.
“Vagrants know when security is there,” Whittall said.

Police advised the group to vary hours and days to keep panhandlers and vagrants off-guard.

Whittall said that in his eight years as a Cedar Springs merchant, he hadn’t encountered any violent crime along the street. And a security guard would not patrol the residential streets where many people park on weekends where muggings have occurred.

Lester said that unfortunately a guard wouldn’t have prevented the recent hit-and-run accidents involving pedestrians either.

But Whittall said panhandling is a major problem that merchants hoped to get under control.

“Not a day went by that I didn’t have to deal with it,” Whittall said.

Whittall sold Buli and the transfer to new owners happened last week. He said the new owners had to deal with a panhandler in the store the first hour they were running the business.

To fund the guard, CSMA planned to hold a holiday dinner and cabaret on Friday, Dec. 2 at The Rose Room. Whittall said that several other events that evening conflicted including a Human Rights Campaign holiday party. Only half the seats sold so CSMA decided to postpone it.

Whittall said the event will be moved to early spring. Singer Linda Petty who was slated to appear, told him that she would be available for the group whenever they rescheduled it. She said she’d rather sing for a full house to help them raise more money.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Buli now under new ownership

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

Buli

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
taffet@dallasvoice.com

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

Fatal hit-and-run raises safety concerns

Pedestrian struck, killed near unlighted crosswalk on Cedar Springs strip

Oak-Lawn-MapJOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

A fatal hit-and-run accident on the Cedar Springs strip last week has led to renewed debate about what can be done to make the street safer for pedestrians.

Wayne Priest, 55, passed away Friday, Nov. 4, at Parkland hospital from injuries he sustained the night before when he was struck near an unlighted crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of Reagan Street eastbound.

Priest, who lived in the 2800 block of Reagan Street, reportedly was on his way to pick up a prescription at Walgreens shortly after 9 p.m. He was crossing Cedar Springs a few feet outside the painted crosswalk, according to witnesses, when he was struck by a maroon four-door vehicle traveling southbound toward Oak Lawn Avenue. The driver of the vehicle didn’t stop and hasn’t been located by police.

“I think any time we have a tragedy like this, we have to investigate whether there are things the city can do to make the area safer for pedestrians,” Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt said this week. “What I’ve asked the city to do is look into exactly what happened and to make recommendations about how we can move forward in making the area safer. I think the challenge we’ve had in the past is the city has been focused on moving cars, not people, and we’re trying to refocus that.”

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said in the wake of the incident, pedestrian safety was the main topic of discussion at the group’s monthly board meeting this week. The Merchants Association plans to invite both Hunt and Councilwoman Pauline Medrano to its next meeting to a take a firsthand look at crosswalks on the strip.

Whittall said the Merchants Association feels the city needs to either remove the crosswalk near which Priest was hit or add more signage. The crosswalk is marked with a sign on the side of the street in one direction but not the other. Whittall said the Merchants Association would like to see free-standing crosswalk signs in the middle of the street, like the ones where Knox Street crosses the Katy Trail a few miles away.

“It’s an entertainment district, and there are going to be a lot of people on the street,” Whittall said. “There needs to be proper signage on this crosswalk. Unfortunately, something like this has to happen before people pay attention again.”

Another crosswalk half a block away on Cedar Springs has flashing lights in the roadway and on both sides of the street which can be activated by pedestrians. However, it has been a maintenance headache for the city, which only recently repaired it after the flashing lights failed for at least the third time in the last few years.

“It’s very unfortunate that this is happening right when we finally got the other crosswalk fixed,” Whittall said, adding that the Merchants Association would also like to see the city follow through with plans to add surveillance cameras on Cedar Springs. “We probably would have been able to catch the driver if we’d had those cameras.”

If caught, the driver would now face third-degree felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident causing injury or death, according to Detective D.T. Marchetti of the Dallas Police Department’s Vehicle Crimes Unit.

“The investigation is open and we are actively seeking the individual that struck him,” Marchetti said Tuesday. “I’m surprised there weren’t more witnesses to it. I’m surprised we didn’t get a tag number or a partial tag or a better description of the vehicle.”

According to a police report, the impact of the collision was so severe that it caused one of Priest’s shoes to fly off. Marchetti said a second vehicle struck Priest after he was lying in the roadway. The driver of the that vehicle remained at the scene.

Assuming the driver of the first vehicle that struck Priest wasn’t intoxicated, they wouldn’t have faced charges if they’d stopped, Marchetti said. That’s because there’s no indication the driver was speeding and Priest was outside the crosswalk, albeit by only a few feet. But Marchetti added that the No. 1 reason people leave accident scenes at night is because they’re intoxicated.

One of Priest’s roommates, Carrie Moon, said this week she’s hoping the driver will be found.

“It is one thing to make a horrible mistake and try to do what you can to help,” Moon said. “It is another thing to make a horrible mistake and just leave a person to die in the street. How this person can live with themselves is beyond me.”

Moon said she’d known Priest for about a year after they met at the Oak Lawn library. She and her boyfriend were looking for a room to rent, and Priest needed help with expenses.

Priest was from Louisiana but was estranged from family there and had moved to Dallas a few years ago. Moon said he’d been married twice and had a daughter.

Moon said Priest had struggled with his sexual orientation for most of his life but recently came out as gay after moving to Oak Lawn. He was a member of the Cathedral of Hope.

“He was in his mid-50s and it took moving to this area to for once in his life feel like he could be himself and not be judged, not even by the church, which was very important to him,” Moon said. “It was like he was starting over, and he had a lot of hope of finding a partner and a new life, and then this happened, which is just so sad.”

Moon said she was trying to coordinate funeral arrangements with Priest’s family in Louisiana. She said his wishes were to be cremated and buried near his son who committed suicide. The service likely will be held in New Orleans.

Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is asked to call the Vehicle Crimes Unit at 214-670-5817.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 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-S

Danny Sikora

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

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
aa.com/curbside.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Utility work on Cedar Springs not expected to hurt business

CSMA announces schedule of fall events, including annual Christmas tree lighting in December

IMG_4486
STRONG SALES | Matthew Evans, the newest employee at Union Jack on Cedar Springs Road, saw his busiest day at the store during Pride weekend. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Utility work is scheduled to begin on Cedar Springs Road on Monday, Sept. 26, but should create minimal interruption to business on the street, business owners said this week.

When Atmos Energy first announced the work, all parking on the street was going to be affected for about two weeks. The original start date would have had the street torn up during the Pride parade.

After City Councilwoman Angela Hunt intervened, the work was postponed until after Pride, and the company agreed to do one section at a time.

Cedar Springs Merchants Association President Scott Whittall said this week that he doesn’t expect the work to interfere with business. Only a few parking spaces at a time should be disrupted, he said.

“They’re checking connections, not doing repairs,” he said, adding that it will be a “dig, check, fill back in” situation.

Work will begin on the Oak Lawn Avenue end of the street and proceed toward Douglas Avenue. All construction should be completed in time for fall events planned for the street.

Merchants this week reported strong business during Pride weekend, and they said they are looking for fall events to continue boosting sales.

Whittall.Scott
CSMA President Scott Whittall

“We really had a good weekend,” said Macho Nacho Assistant General Manager Brandi Knutzen. “We had fun and saw a lot of new faces.”

She said it was their biggest weekend since the restaurant opened in April, and she hopes many of the people who came in for the first time during Pride will return.

OutLines Manager David Lester said that business in his shop is up over last year. He said that in addition to events the Cedar Springs Merchants Association has planned, his store will decorate for Texas-OU weekend and will do a tent sale once a month.

“Overall, business is good,” he said.

Union Jack Manager Kim Johnson reported a similar boost in business over the Pride weekend. “It was one of the best we’ve had in a long time.”

Matthew Evans, the store’s newest employee, said it was the busiest weekend he’s seen.

Johnson said that rather than special promotions, he’s relying on new lines of jackets, shoes, accessories and “the works” that are scheduled to arrive for the fall.

One that hit the store recently is a line of Pan Am logo wallets, bags and related merchandise. The items are tied to the premiere of a new TV show about the airline set in the 1960s, and Johnson said sales of those items are especially strong.

Johnson also suggested that new stores opening on the street will help keep shoppers on Cedar Springs.

A hair care supply store is set to open in the old Shades of Gray space behind Hunky’s. And across from there, construction is close to complete on the new Thai-rrific restaurant that should open in October.

However, a coffee shop that had begun construction in the space between Thai-rrific and Macho Nacho abandoned its lease because of permit issues related to parking.

Events drive traffic to the gay strip, and CSMA announced a fall schedule of events through Christmas.

On Oct. 29, Cedar Springs Road will be closed to traffic for the annual Halloween street party, which, Whittall said, is traditionally one of the biggest times for sales along the street.

He said the best time to shop is after the street closes around 4 p.m.

The next sidewalk sale and mini art show is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19, with artists  showing their work along the strip in conjunction with sales by many of the merchants. A lineup of local vendors in booths is planned as well.

DFW Rescue will be there looking for new homes for pets. Music on the street will add to the day’s festivities.

“That event kicks off the Christmas season on Cedar Springs,” Whittall said.

Two events are scheduled for the first week in December.

On Dec. 2, a holiday dinner theater at the Rose Room will benefit the Cedar Springs Beautification Project. Whittall said the lineup should be announced soon.

On Dec. 7, the DFW Sisters will light the Christmas tree on the patio of TMC: The Mining Company at 7 p.m. Whittall said they plan to have a bigger tree this year. And he hoped to have an announcement soon about additional lighting.

The Oak Lawn Band is slated to perform. The lighting will be followed by a cider and wine stroll. Sexy Santa will be on the street handing out gifts and carolers will perform.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay Super Bowl block party called a success

Scott Whittall warms up the crowd at the Super Street Party.

Maybe the gays in Dallas are capable of pulling off a Super Bowl party after all.

Although a gay-themed concert planned for the Cotton Bowl on Thursday night was canceled due to poor ticket sales, organizers of Saturday night’s block party on Cedar Springs are deeming it a success. (To view a slideshow from the party, go here.)

Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said while the closed-down street itself wasn’t overly crowded during the event, the clubs were extremely busy and some were at capacity.

“The turnout was huge, but it’s hard for us to get a head count because everybody kept running in and out of the clubs to get warm,” Whittall said, adding that attendance was definitely in the thousands. “I think if they all would have been able to stay outside, I think we would have seen a street full of people. There was no question they were down here, they were just in an out all night long. They were flooding through those gates.”

Whittall said organizers of the Super Street Party — billed as the world’s first-ever gay Super Bowl block party — were “freaking out” on Thursday and Friday because they weren’t sure if the weather would clear.

“They had altered the forecast I don’t know how many times for Saturday,” he said. “We didn’t know what to expect, especially with all that snow and ice on the ground Friday. But it all worked out. I don’t even think there was a patch of ice left on Cedar Springs. Everything was set up in time. It went off great.

“We’re definitely deeming it a success, especially compared to a lot of the party debacles that were out there last week in the straight community. I heard that a lot of the parties around town were not well attended,” Whittall said. “We had the luxury of the fact that we have a ton of huge clubs around us where people can go and get warm. There was always a pretty good crowd around the stage. In a warmer weather situation, we will definitely set the street up like that again.”

—  John Wright

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

Razzle Dazzle a done deal for 2011

Pub crawls, a street festival, an AIDS fundraiser, party buses, more will be part of weeklong party

DAVID TAFFET  |  taffet@dallasvoice.com

Razzle-DazzleThe return of Razzle Dazzle Dallas means North Texas will have a June Pride celebration. The five-day event begins June 1.
Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said the June 1-5 dates were chosen, in part, to not conflict with Pride weekends in Austin and Houston.

The event begins on a Wednesday with a special edition of the Cedar Springs Wine Walk.

Thursday, June 2, will feature a pub-crawl. Shuttles and party buses will leave from Cedar Springs Road to visit different bars off the strip. The Brick and BJ’s have already committed to participate. Other bars are expected to join as planning continues through the spring.

Each stop will be about 45 minutes and feature specials and a VIP area for those who purchase special tickets for the week.

“The purpose is to introduce people to the bars off the Cedar Springs strip,” Whittall said.

The fifth annual Metro Ball held at S4 will become part of Razzle Dazzle Dallas as the Friday event. The fundraiser is staged by and benefits the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, which works with nine area agencies as a funding source of last resort to help individuals with emergency situations.

Tickets are expected to be $25 on line and $35 at the door. Crystal Waters headlined last year’s ball that raised $37,000. In 2011, the evening will include a silent auction and dance party.

Representatives of GDMAF, Inc., which stages Metro Ball, attended the first Razzle Dazzle organizational meeting to make sure there were no conflicts in dates.

“I expressed my concern to the committee,” said GDMAF President John Cooper-Lara. “But it made more sense to focus Metro Ball as the primary fundraiser for the weekend.”

By the end of the meeting, not only had Metro Ball become one of week’s signature events, but also Cooper-Lara signed on as co-chair of Razzle Dazzle Dallas.

“We’re excited to be part of a week-long celebration,” he said, hoping the community-wide effort will raise even more money for GDMAF this year.

When Metro Ball ends at 10 p.m., an after-party will be held at a different venue.

Saturday begins with a street festival — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — that will highlight the Cedar Springs merchants.

whittall.scott
Scott Whittall

Participating stores will have sale tents. Booths for artists and non-profits will be part of the day’s activities.

The main event will be Saturday night from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Cedar Springs will close from Reagan to Knight streets. Whittall said they were exploring closing even more of the street.

A main stage near Reagan Street will feature a national headliner and a variety of bands and entertainment. A stage near ilume will present a national DJ. A third stage in the middle of the block will also have a DJ keeping the party lively.

A sponsored VIP tent near Hunky’s will include a free cocktail of the evening and food provided by two area restaurants.

Sunday ends the five-day festival with a mini pub-crawl, afternoon t-dance and check presentations.

Whittall said the group plans to work with the Dallas Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and promote Razzle Dazzle nationally.

When Razzle Dazzle Dallas last took place in 2003, it was billed as the 26th annual event. That dates the first one to 1978.

Don Maison, who served on the board from about 1985-90, said he remembered it beginning as fundraiser for the Dallas Museum of Art. At the time, the museum was located in Fair Park and had just announced a new building downtown.

As AIDS took hold in Dallas in the early 1980s, Razzle Dazzle quickly changed its focus to raising funds for the first North Texas AIDS organizations, such as Oak Lawn Community Services that closed in 2000, and the AIDS Resource Center, now known as Resource Center Dallas.  One year in the 1980s Razzle Dazzle was held at the old Dallas auto pound on Inwood Road where a UT Southwestern building now stands. Searchlights directed people to the abandoned facility.

Maison recalled having to repair the roof of the shed and call Dallas Power & Light to run more electricity into the site.

Fair Park was a frequent site of the event. In different years it was held in the Hall of State, Tower Building and Centennial Building.

Maison said the year Razzle Dazzle was held downtown in the Convention Center was costly. Market Center Hall and an abandoned building in the West End and the Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum were other venues before Razzle Dazzle moved to Cedar Springs Road in the 1990s.

In its last year, Razzle Dazzle featured the Village People who performed on an outdoor stage in Caven’s paid parking lot. Although the street was blocked off, many people entered without paying. The event lost money and Razzle Dazzle Dallas disbanded.

This year’s event should be well funded as it combines resources from a number of groups. Whittall said Ben E. Keith has already signed to be the presenting sponsor and other businesses including ilume and the Melrose Hotel have already agreed to be sponsors.

The new website will be live in January.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas