Let them eat cake, Dallas style

The first round of BOHICA (Bend over, here it comes again) messages from the City over the proposed Lowest Greenville rezoning are already out, and the ink’s not even dry on the CPC voting panel. CPC Commissioner Mike Davis (appointed by Dwaine Carraway) is using his blog to put some vaseline on some of the issues raised ahead of last week's vote, the first big step to forcing businesses on Greenville Avenue (south of Belmont) to get permits in order to stay open after midnight.

You can read his complete article at this link, but allow BD to pull three paragraphs completely out of context for review.

Waiving the fees - NOT!

It may make some people upset, but I protested the waiving of fees for businesses in this zoning proposal. We are currently in a recession and our City Planning and Development staff has experienced several rounds of layoffs.  The resources are not available for such a waiver. If a bar or restaurant closes down before the process even gets voted on by City Council (and then you have eight months to get the SUP), that's unfortunate and makes me wonder if there are other factors involved and if you are using the zoning process as a scapegoat to get out of your lease.

The application fee is about $1,200.  Does putting together $1,200 in eight months ($1,200/8 = $150) make you close down a good business?  You aren't required to get a lawyer to fill out the application....

This is called the Let Them Eat Cake Theory of Zoning. It is another way of saying, Hey, too frigging bad we changed the rules in the middle of the game. We already know the bad bars are screwing over your business income, even though you have nothing to do with the problems, but too bad.

It also implies that the recession is hurting just City Hall and not small businesses on the street. Aalthough he said at the meeting there were just three or four planners for the whole city, an SUP will take about four months to secure, assuming you can afford a site plan, the sign fees, someone to explain what is going on in the process, etc. It's not like you wake up the week before the end of the eight-month window, apply for and get your SUP by the end of the day.

Take two years, or take nothing!

There has also been some complaining that most of the permits, if granted, will be for a time frame of two years of less.  In most cases, that is correct. As a practice, it is very rare that a Specific Use Permit for a club or bar will be granted for more than two years. A short permit is incentive to continue to operate a responsible business instead of getting lax because you know you have a five-year permit and nobody will remember what happened 2/3/4 years ago when you apply for a renewal.

It has been said that our vote will cause Lowest Greenville to become the "Deep Ellum of the 21st Century." You should hope for such an outcome. Deep Ellum has its mainstay businesses that never closed, experienced re-launches of great spots such as Trees and Green Room, and witnessed the opening of new businesses like LaGrange and Lemongrass.

Even Deep Ellum's biggest supporters admit it took five years of empty storefronts before things got better. That's a long time to keep your fingers crossed and hope for good things. There's also a big difference between a restaurant investment (kitchen gear, plumbing, vent-a-hood, tables, serving supplies, plates, and so on) and a bar investment (bar, plumbing, some stools, maybe a sound system). The average restaurant needs $250,000 in construction expenses - who will put that kind of money on the table for a two-year permit. Maybe three??

Don't hurt your arm patting yourself on the back

As I've said in previous posts, I think we as an appointed body do a pretty good job of keeping suspect clubs on a short leash, and rewarding good operators for a job well done and a club well-run.

The City ignored Lowest Greenville for 12+ years, letting things go until they were so bad as to implode into a hail of gunfire. Corrupt building inspectors, lax attitude to issuing Certificates of Occupancy, and failure to figure out how to do a proper audit were just a few items. Then they used the DPD as a cleaning crew for their mistakes, costing nearly $250,000 per annum in overtime. Instead of laser-sighting the bad bars (and the property owners who let them in), they propose to use a hammer to kill a few ants.

If this is their idea of keeping suspect clubs on a short leash, then I hate to see their idea of a good operator.

By Avi S. Adelman under Dallas City Council , Lower Greenville