By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"But once they found we were trying to get a bar going on, that's when the city really got serious," Wortham says. "They started really coming around and stopping things."
No one realized how serious the city would get. For the next three years, Baish and the Worthams played Simon Says with a variety of building and health inspectors, fire marshals and officials from almost every department on the city payroll. As soon as Baish went to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, he opened the door to scrutiny, and he hasn't found a way to close the door yet, spending so much time at City Hall, most of the secretaries assume he works there. All he wanted to do was open a bar, own a nightclub. He never expected any of this. Maybe he should have.
"As naïve as I was at the start, I went down to the TABC and said, 'Hey, I'd like to buy a license.' And they just laughed at me," Baish says, laughing as well at the memory. "They just thought it was so funny. And that's when they directed me to the city and the fire marshal and the building inspectors, and then I started playing their game. I had no idea it would be any of this. I guess you've got to go through it; you've gotta play their game to do it. But I had no idea."
Rodney Patterson, a building inspector with the city, says he was just doing his job. He's in charge of enforcing Denton's building code, and it's not his place to make exceptions. You're either up to code or you aren't, and there is no gray area. Whether or not he approves of the business is irrelevant. If Patterson doesn't approve of the building your business is in, then it becomes a problem.
"They had a lot of stuff they needed to do when we got involved," Patterson says. "The thing is, they didn't come to us before they leased the building, so they were stuck between a rock and a hard place."
According to Baish, however, Patterson was both the rock and the hard place. Patterson was Rubber Gloves' archnemesis for a time--he hasn't been directly involved with the club for more than a year--The Joker trying to bring Gotham City to its knees.
"We were dealing with this other guy when we were trying to get the bar opened, and Rodney Patterson would come snooping around, sticking his nose in everything," Baish remembers. "And one day, he came down, and he tried to shut us down. I forget what show it was, but it was some show that we had a guarantee on." No show meant Baish and the Worthams would be paying the band what it was owed out of their own pockets, so they went around Patterson, finding a higher-ranking official in the building inspections department who allowed the show to go ahead as planned. "Rodney Patterson finds out about this and he comes by, and he's just livid, because we went behind his back. 'If I say something, I expect you to go along with my decision.'"
Unfortunately, that was merely a bad start to a worse longer-term relationship with Patterson, Baish says. "Evidently, the guy we went to, over that Christmas break, that guy left, so Rodney Patterson took his position," he says. It's not difficult to guess what comes next: "So we were dealing with Rodney Patterson, and he was the higher-up then, and he just made it hell."
Even without the presence of Patterson or any other building inspectors and city officials, it wasn't easy transforming Rubber Gloves from a hollowed-out shell of a building into an up-to-code, fully functioning nightclub. Among other things, the Worthams still lived in the area that was earmarked for the proposed bar's location. The building also didn't have an official parking lot, and there wasn't an inspector around who was going to grant Rubber Gloves the necessary permits to open a bar until the problem was addressed.
Originally, the bar should have been ready to go by the beginning of 1999. Then it was supposed to be in place by Baish's 24th birthday, March 31. That deadline came and went without any progress; since the Worthams hadn't moved out yet, the project remained on hold. Construction finally began in June, but only in baby steps, with the installation of new doorways on the side of the building and at the back of the performance area. At the time, Baish also entered negotiations to buy the building, with the help of Jayson Wortham's mother, a real estate agent; he became the owner of the building later that year.
The Worthams eventually moved off the premises, but there was still a problem. Because Rubber Gloves' calendar had to stay full to accommodate the financial requirements of its owners, construction happened at odd hours and often late into the night. It was an impossible situation: The city told Baish and the Worthams they weren't allowed to host shows without a proper parking lot, but they needed the money from those shows. They also needed time to build the bar and make all of the other improvements required by the city, and they didn't have enough as long as the club stayed open. It was like borrowing from one loan shark to pay another one, and no one was winning.