By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
A bar, however, must obtain an SUP before opening here. According to the Dallas Department of Planning and Zoning, an establishment has to earn at least 25 percent of its gross revenue from food in order to be considered a restaurant. But all the city requires in the way of proof is for the club owner to file an affidavit with the city attesting to what he thinks the revenue breakdown is going to be. By claiming his venue is primarily a restaurant, Spencer proceeded to lease the Baptist church and open The Palace and Moonshine Cafe without having to notify any of the neighbors.
Open to the public for dinner, The Moonshine Cafe inhabits the basement and serves Creole cuisine prepared by the former chef of PoPoLos, a popular North Dallas restaurant. The Palace plans to host live music from Thursday to Sunday nights in the cavernous Grand Hall on the first floor, in addition to making it available for private functions. Although the building's temporary certificate of occupancy, as well as the management, puts the maximum occupancy at 300 people, including employees, their own brochures advertise a capacity of more than double that number--another concern for the neighborhood.
"That the place has the proper zoning is small comfort to the neighbors," says Councilman Loza, who nonetheless admits the residents have few options in protesting its existence.
And the options the neighbors do have--complaining to police, the fire marshal, and the health department, among others--are clearly grating on the owners' nerves.
"In the two weeks we've been open, we've gotten 35 phone calls from 35 entities, and I find it harassment at some point," says an indignant Elizabeth Edwards, sister of owner Spencer Edwards, who books private parties for the Palace.
As she sees it, the problem with the Loverboy concert was that it was a touring band, and therefore its equipment made it too loud. "It was my brother's own personal private concert," Edwards explains. "It was something he wanted, and the equipment was just too much. It was a one-time thing."
Both Loza and Bruce Richardson, who is a professional musician, find that argument absurd. "Quite frankly, I didn't know the decibel level depended on a group's popularity," says Loza. "That's a weird argument to say the least."
"Oh, please," says Richardson. "The entire side of the church is thin stained-glass windows. Any band is going to blow the place out."
Excuses aside, Edwards says her construction manager is working on improving the building's soundproofing. That will no doubt come in handy for the club's grand opening September 4, when Joe "King" Carrasco is scheduled to perform.
In addition, Edwards says the Sunday-night concert was too loud because so few people showed up, there weren't enough bodies to absorb the sound--another argument that defies both physics and logic. The next two Sunday-night concerts have been canceled, Edwards says, not out of concern for the neighborhood, but because of economics. When the summer is over and there is a possibility of attracting bigger crowds, Sunday-night concerts might resume, she admits.
Edwards says that they have tried to be courteous, but that when they have invited the neighbors over to tell them what they want, they don't tell them anything specific.
"We want what Spencer Edwards promised us," says Kellis. "No excessive noise; nothing would impact this side of the street; and they wouldn't run valet service over here. They've lied from day one."
Kellis' litany of complaints also includes the restaurant's kitchen exhaust, which faces her house and blows the smells from the kitchen at her house; the industrial air-conditioning unit that also increases the noise level; and the private garbage pickup that arrives at 4:30 a.m.
"We have a right to enjoy our own homes, to sit on our porches without being impacted by loud music, to sit in our dens without the windows rattling or having to turn the TV up to hear it, without cars racing up and down the block," says Kellis. "This kind of behavior wouldn't be tolerated in Lake Highlands or Lakewood, and we're just as residential as these other neighborhoods.
"If Dallas doesn't have a restriction to keep this from happening, it needs to [have one] now."
Loza hopes he can get both sides to work together. "I know it's not going to be easy, but I hope we can a find a way, if not to make both sides completely happy, then at least to peacefully coexist. I hope we can get to that point."
But so far, Loza admits, The Palace is not off to a promising start.