For the last several months, the Dallas City Council, working on recommendations from the Quality of Life & Environment Committee, has been hosting public meetings seeking public comment on two proposals: one that would require bars and restaurants with uncovered outdoor seating to provide more parking (currently, parking spot quotas are only based on indoor seating), and another that could implement a late-night overlay that would require bars in certain neighborhoods to close at midnight, effectively setting a curfew for some high-profile districts.
The public meetings have been filled with intense debate, with much of the anger directed at city officials. The Dallas service industry has showed up en masse to these meetings to protest the proposed changes. At a meeting on Nov. 29, things got heated. Restaurant brokers claimed that deals were falling through because business owners were afraid that regulations may change, and members of both the service industry and neighborhood associations lamented changes that could dampen Dallas' thriving dining and nightlife culture.
"You should attack the actual problem and not try to drag down the entire hospitality industry with it," Ken Duble, a board member on the Cedar Hills Neighborhood Association, said at the last meeting, eliciting massive applause from the crowd. "There are a lot more things the city needs to be concerned with than giving parking spots to drunks."
While the increased parking requirements have been tabled for the moment, at 9 a.m. on Thursday the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee will meet at City Hall to discuss the possibility of an overlay tool to require some bars to close at midnight. A few Uptown residents, though largely outnumbered by service industry members who disagreed with them, have complained at the meetings that their neighborhood becomes a drunken mess late at night. Drinkers fight in the streets, they say, and urinate on their lawns. McKinney Avenue in Uptown is "the initial target" for the proposed overlay, according to a statement from the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, "but the tool is being created so it could be applicable anywhere in the city of Dallas with enough political will."
According to the GDRA, bars and restaurants aren't the only businesses that could be affected by late-night overlays. "This overlay would require essentially all businesses open after midnight to get a SUP in the applicable areas including gas stations, restaurants, bars, retail stores, grocery stores, etc.," according to GDRA's statement.
A late-night overlay is already in effect on Lower Greenville, where bars have to close by midnight, but Thursday the zoning committee will discuss expanding the overlay to other neighborhoods. A report from the committee explains their reasoning behind the discussion. "Different areas of the city have experienced impacts from establishments that operate late at night and into the early morning hours," according to the report, which you can read in full below. "Many of these establishments are in close proximity, if not adjacent to, residential neighborhoods. The concentration and proximity of these establishments may become a nuisance to nearby residential neighborhoods. Some issues potentially related to these uses are noise, crime, trash and property damage, etc."
The proposed late-hours overlay would mean that any business within overlay boundaries that is open between midnight and 6 a.m. would need to be deemed a late-night establishment.
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Certain factors, according to the zoning board, could influence the city's decision to implement the curfew: "The number of citations issued by police to patrons of the establishment; the number of citations issued by police for noise ordinance violations by the establishment; the number of arrests for public intoxication or disorderly conduct associated with the establishment; the number of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code violations of the establishment; and the number of violent crimes associated with the establishment, with emphasis on violent crimes originating inside the establishment."
A Facebook page called Save the Patio, run by several local restaurateurs, has been posting frequent updates and Wednesday shared a statement from the zoning committee's chairman, Tony Shidid, about tomorrow's meeting. "Because City Plan Commission begins immediately after ZOAC, we will have a hard stop at 10:30 a.m.," Shidid says. "The late-hours overlay is second on our agenda and frankly I would be surprised if we get to it in any meaningful way — we will not be taking a vote on the overlay tomorrow morning." It is unclear whether public comment will be accepted at the meeting.
The GDRA is urging concerned business owners to follow Save the Patio on Facebook and to reach out to both individual City Council members and to send written comments or recommendations to Donna Moorman, chief planner on the Board of Adjustment. "Think rational and consequential rather emotional," the GDRA's statement reads. "Email your comments to her and she will forward them directly to ZOAC members."