Can't Boogie No More

Club owners fear the city may put a stop to dancing the night away

But Morris and Nedler, and other club owners such as Blue's Keith Black, aren't opposed to the possible abolition of the late-hours dance hall permits simply because of lost revenue. After all, they can only serve water, juice and soft drinks after 2 a.m., and a significant amount of their clientele generally shows up before then. They think the city is inviting more problems if they institute the new closing hours. There will be more illegal parties in warehouses and parking lots, they say, more problems on the streets since a few thousand people will be leaving the clubs at the same time, instead of staggered over a couple of hours. On top of that, it won't answer the question--How do we stop loitering in Deep Ellum?--that the police seem to think it will.

"The problems they're having in Deep Ellum, which is where this all stemmed from, this has nothing to do with after-hours," Nedler says. "This has to do with people who don't even go to clubs anyway. The problem they have in Deep Ellum are people on the street. The problem establishments in Deep Ellum don't have after-hours permits. They don't have dance hall permits at all. They're bars. And they can stay open after 2." Bars can stay open as late as they want; they just can't serve alcohol after 2 a.m.

He's right. The clubs in Deep Ellum currently under police scrutiny--Nairobi Sports Bar and Main Street Sports Bar--will not be affected by the removal of late-hours dance hall permits. Even if they were, there are already mechanisms in place to do away with problem businesses. Chapter 14 provides, as Nedler says, "about 10 different ways" to revoke dance hall permits. There is no need for a blanket approach to the problem--just more vigilance paid to the existing solution. This is the case HADI intends to make to the mayor, though they haven't been able to schedule a meeting with her yet.

Removing the late-hours dance hall permits won't do much to clean up Deep Ellum.
Mark Graham
Removing the late-hours dance hall permits won't do much to clean up Deep Ellum.

And even though Miller initially agreed to look into the removal of the late-hours permits, she's still the supporter HADI is counting on the most. Nedler and Morris remember how she backed the group a few years ago when an attempted end-around by a few topless bars on Northwest Highway had the city council looking into a similar policy. They hope once Miller hears both sides of the issue, she'll decide against such a strong measure. In their more optimistic moments, they even hope she'll do away with the time provision altogether--which the city government of Houston did in 1999 when facing a similar situation.

"Let's just stop and analyze what we're talking about," Morris says. "We're talking about people dancing. We're not talking about, what do you call it, suggestive, erotic dancers dancing for you or any performance of that type of dancing. We're talking about a person, a customer, being able to dance. We're not talking about much. I just don't see how you can draw the line and say, 'You can't dance after 4 a.m.' If you want to dance after 4 a.m., you gotta go home and dance. But if you want to bowl, you can damn sure bowl."

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