TABC investigator recommends denial of liquor license even though agency is officially neutral; judge’s ruling could come in February


BAR FIGHT | Paulette Hershner, left, and Lonzie Hershner, look on Friday, Jan. 18, during the hearing on a challenge to their liquor license application for the Hideaway. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

A state admi­nistrative law judge could decide by the end of February whether to allow a liquor license for Marty’s Hideaway, according to an attorney for the bar’s owners.

A marathon hearing on the Hershners’ liquor license for the Hideaway took place in a standing-room-only courtroom in downtown Dallas on Jan. 18.

Neighborhood groups are opposing a liquor license for Lonzie Hersher or Paulette Hershner, who have been renovating the Hideaway property on Buena Vista Street for about two years. The Hershners also operate the Tin Room on Hudnall Street, Chesterfield’s on Inwood Road and the recently closed Drama Room on Cedar Springs Road.

“It went as well as I thought it could have gone for us,” the Hershners’ attorney Tim Griffith said Tuesday of the hearing at the George L. Allen, Sr. Courts Building.

Thomas Walston, of the State Office of Administrative Hearings in Austin, said decisions typically are issued within 60 days after the record closes.

However, Griffith said the judge who heard the case, Craig Bennett, indicated he would likely issue a decision by the end of February.

Walston said the Hershners’ closing arguments were received on Tuesday. The neighborhood group has until next Monday to file reply briefs.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is officially neutral in the case, but an investigator from TABC recommended on the stand during the hearing that the license be denied.

“That was the one thing that blindsided us,” Lonzie Hershner said.

The Hershners signed an affidavit with TABC saying Marty’s Hideaway won’t have dancers like the Tin Room and the Drama Room.

Drama Room landlady Penelope Hatteras testified that the Hershners closed the bar owing $9,000 in rent. That bar closed just days before the hearing.

The court heard testimony that the Hershners were issued four citations from the city for operating an unlicensed dance hall at the Drama Room.

Witnesses also testified that two people were arrested at the Tin Room on July 9, 2010, for solicitation of prostitution, resulting in a TABC violation.

The Hershners countered that they have three TABC licenses and have gone through 30 renewals with no challenges. They said the prostitution arrests at the Tin Room represent their only TABC violation.

“Our record stands for itself,” Hershner said. “Thirty-five years and only one violation.”

Another witness who lives on Fleetwood Oaks directly behind the Tin Room testified that the Hershners are “incredibly bad neighbors.”

“When I was cross-examined, I pointed out the inaccuracies in their testimony,” Hershner said.

Hershner said the Hideaway would be a piano bar and attract an older, more mature crowd.

If the neighbors challenging the license lose, they are not permitted to appeal under Texas law. But if the Hershners lose, they may appeal as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.

An unrelated lawsuit against the Hershners filed in September alleges a group known as Cedar Springs DR Entertainment entered into an agreement to purchase the Drama Room in June, but the Hershners reneged on the agreement. That lawsuit is set to go to court in February, according to Arthur Hood, one of the complainants.

Hershner brushed off the suit saying it is from disgruntled former employees whose services were no longer needed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2013.