Today brought another round in the ongoing fight over whether Lower Greenville is a daylight retail district or an evening entertainment strip. This afternoon, the City Plan Commission denied specific-use permits to two longstanding venues: Service Bar and Yucatan. City council will have the final say when both appeal the plan commission's decisions in coming weeks. But if council says no, both have to close at midnight. And that's that.
Other Lower Greenville locations had it easier; getting their SUPs no problem. They are, once again: Billiard Bar, Shade, Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, Taco Cabana, Kush and Nandina -- the last of which I Googled mid-meeting only to have my computer freeze while blasting the website's lounge music. Sorry, everyone; very embarrassing.
Craig Sheils, a lawyer representing Service Bar, explained to plan commissioners that it's a "long-standing establishment," in business in the same location since 1991 and owned by Loannis Manettas since 2003. D just recently did a photoshoot there for a dub-step story, Scheils said, clarifying he's not "cool enough" to know what that is. But the point is: How bad can it be? Its employees are certified by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Committee, he said, and the organization has not threatened to take away that licensing. As for the 16 arrests in two years for public intoxication and two assault arrests in 2010 -- it's not clear how police connect incidents with establishments, he said.
Furthermore, he argued, there are at least three security guards on site at all times, and a dress code is enforced. The bar will even sign on the dotted line to maintain three security guards, at least one of whom is a cop, if that condition would help green-light the late-night permit, which, thanks to Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano's ordinance, is necessary to stay open later than midnight. If this SUP is not approved, Sheils said, the decision would have a "dire effect" on the business.
Property owner Steve Schwartz also spoke in favor of his tenant, but Philip Kingston of the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association did just the opposite, saying that Service Bar is among the bars that draw the largest amount of police activity. "Eight public intoxication arrests," he said. "It's a terrible number. It's a very terrible number."
"I think that's what the neighborhood association wants to do," Scheils said. "They want to shut down all the clubs."
They've managed to shut down quite a few, he added, and they're now one step closer to shutting down another, as the committee voted unanimously not to approve the SUP for Service Bar.
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Then came Yucatan. Representative Audra Buckley stepped aside, allowing the opposition to speak first. Kingston stepped up to the mic once again. "This one is somewhat similar to Service Bar," he said. "This one has received the most police attention on Lowest Greenville in the past two years."
"Yucatan is a dance hall. It's a dance hall operating without a dance hall permit," he said. "It's not something that's compatible with community retail. ... 'Dance hall' is a dirty word on Lower Greenville."
Buckley presented a slide show in defense of her client, who began operating the business in December of last year. She offered that they will voluntarily install surveillance cameras, as well as provide three security guards on Wednesday and Thursday and six on Friday and Saturday. The establishment already adheres to a dress code, prohibits gang "paraphernalia" and posts "no dancing" signs in plain sight to adhere to their classification as a "restaurant."
That wasn't enough to convince the commissioners.