By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Here's something to think about: Mayor Laura Miller has become the city's mother. Or she'd like to be, at any rate. Sure, so far, her attempts to impose a 2 a.m. curfew on all clubs has met with plenty of resistance from club owners and their customers, not to mention the majority of the city council. But a few new council members could turn that around pretty quickly. Give it a couple of years and it just might pass.
Point is, the idea is in her head now, and it's not likely to go away anytime soon. Especially since the cops love it and will more than likely remind her every time crime gets a little out of hand. It's a nice little quick-fix plan that looks like it'll help, even if it won't. And it won't.
Here's something else to think about: There are 30 or so clubs in Dallas that currently stay open until 4 a.m. All of them have to pay a $1,400 annual fee for a late-hours dance hall permit, plus they have to be approved by a review board, as well as the health, fire and police departments. One suspicious employee, one owner's spouse with a rap sheet, one uncrossed "t" can throw the entire process off. These clubs are arguably the most scrutinized businesses in town.
As such, they make double-sure that everything is on the up-and-up at their establishments. Many of them employ off-duty police officers to keep the peace and have enough thick-necked dudes on staff to field a scout team for the Cowboys. They don't want trouble, because they literally can't afford any. As we said before, one slip and the club has a "for lease" sign out front.
So, say Mayor Mom manages to force these places to close down at 2 a.m. OK, fine. Where do all the people who like to dance after then go? Thanks for asking. If these people don't have a legal place to go, there's a pretty good chance they'll go someplace that operates outside of the city's guidelines. We'll let Michael Morris, owner of a few venues in town, including Seven and One, run it down for you.
"A couple of guys get a warehouse out behind the Anatole Hotel," says Morris, who's also the secretary for the Hospitality Association of Dallas Inc. "Or they get one at I-35 and Royal, and they set up shop with a big sound system and two Port-O-Lets, and they put as many people as they can get to show up in there. You don't have a safe location. You don't have a place with provisions for fire safety. You don't have a place that's sprinklered as necessary. You don't have a place that's deemed as passing the city code for health and things like that. You see what I'm saying? You'll have all these places and all these parties pop up."
We'll take Morris' example a step further. Not only would the locations be unsafe, there are good odds plenty of the people won't be safe either. Who's going to check them at the door and make sure they don't have guns or knives? Who's going to make sure they're not busting into cars outside or hassling women inside? Miller and the police think that by closing the clubs at 2 a.m. they're getting rid of people like this. In actuality, they're forcing them into a place where they're more likely to cause someone else harm.
Then what happens? That's right. Someone has to call the cops. One of the main reasons the 2 a.m. curfew is being bandied about is because it will, in theory, free up police resources. Not true. More than likely, the same sort of manpower, if not more, would be expended at these illegal parties and raves. And what's worse, they'd be even more spread out than before. Kinda sorta solving one problem would cause about a dozen more. Awesome.
So think about all that. And while you do, don't try to come home late. Miller just might be sitting on the couch, waiting for you to sneak past the living room. The lights will dramatically turn on and there will be Mayor Mom, in that red suit she always wears, loudly questioning your whereabouts. "And is that liquor I smell on your breath?" You know the drill.