By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
On Wednesday, December 21, a longtime Deep Ellum music venue was officially closed to the public.
The biggest surprise, though, was that the club in question wasn't Trees.
Multiple signs posted on Club Dada's windows at 2720 Elm St. on Wednesday read as follows: "This property has been seized for non-payment of taxes owed the State of Texas."
Two other signs were taped to the doors; Made Fresh Daily, a band booked to play that night, posted an apology to any concertgoers who may have arrived that evening to the locked-up building. Another sign read, "Merry Christmas from the TABC," promising that the club would reopen "tomorrow" and signed simply, "Dada."
It should be noted that the seizure of Dada's property was conducted by the state comptroller, not the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, meaning the seizure was more serious than Dada acknowledged. Also, the club did not reopen the next day.
So what's up, Dada? Repeated calls to owner Steve Shin went unanswered and unreturned for days, but according to the State Comptroller's Office, the club owes $17,396.06 in mixed beverage taxes and $816.44 in sales taxes. Coincidentally, that's roughly the same figure--$18,000--that Trees owner Entertainment Collaborative owed to the state comptroller as of an October 2005 bankruptcy filing.
On Wednesday night, it was eerie to stand in front of the seized Club Dada and look across Elm Street at an unlit Trees. That very day, my take on the potential closure of Trees had hit newsstands. It could stay open after January 2, EC President Brandt Wood had told me; optimism was there, but barely. The last news anybody needed was that Club Dada, the only original club left from Deep Ellum's early-'90s glory days, was a goner too.
Dada was actually shut down a week before--the club's permit to operate was suspended on December 13, which meant all shows after that date were run illegally. The state comptroller's representative I spoke to couldn't confirm whether any fines will be levied for the illegal run, but she noted that as of noon on Tuesday, December 27, Club Dada hadn't even contacted the State Comptroller's Office. Guess Shin has been lax about calling more than a few people back.
The only familiar face anywhere near Dada that Wednesday was John "Beard" Brewer, the venue's longtime doorman, who was walking the streets between one bar and the next. Over the years, most things about Dada--its sound, its booking, its beer temperatures--had dwindled and wobbled considerably. To me, the room's only constant was Beard, a tough yet kind man who worked the door practically every night; the type who remembered everyone's face, if not their name, and looked like he would perform CPR on a man after knocking him out in one fell swoop.
But that constant appears to be gone. Nobody from Dada has tried to clear up the fines for nearly a week, leaving employees with no clue when--or if--the venue could resume operation. Visibly upset, Beard had plenty to say about Dada's plight, but the only thing he'd say on the record, four days before Christmas, was the following: "I need a job."
According to the Comptroller's Office, the club can reopen as soon as its overdue taxes are paid in full. In fact, Dada could even reopen with a minimal payment if a plan is arranged. Looks like that's all up to Shin.
Trees' fate couldn't be confirmed at press time; on Wednesday, December 28, the EC's lease will be accepted or rejected in a hearing requested by landlord Belmor Corp. (check dallasobserver.com for updates through the week)."I can tell you that what the landlord is asking for is something we can't offer right now," Entertainment Collaborative CEO Whit Meyers says. "Either they accept what we're offering or they go to the court and have us evicted. Who knows what'll happen in the next 24 hours? They might have an epiphany. They might not."
On Monday, December 26, I took one more trip to Dada. The comptroller's signs were there, though Dada had a new sign of its own--"will reopen after Christmas." This note was tagged with skeptical responses like "PAY YOUR BILLS, BITCH."
A beggar approached as I walked back to my car. "Sir! Sir!"
Some people in Deep Ellum need cash even more than Dada.