Remember, way back in January, when then-Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport were in a huff -- a downright tizzy! -- over Rick's Cabaret's plans to take off its top but a hop, skip and lap dance away from American Airlines' HQ on the south side of DFW? Come on, sure you do. No? Then let me refresh your memory. Just stuff your ones in the waistband. No, thank you.
Long story short: Moncrief and the airport board were positively appalled at the prospect of having a gentleman's joint so close to the airport. In a letter of protest sent to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Administrator Alan Steen, the mayor cited myriad reasons, among them the "threat of inebriated patrons" and "increased criminal activity," including "drugs, gambling, prostitution, firearms and engaging in organized criminal activity."
His letter, along with protests filed by the airport board and other Airport Freeway neighbors, kept the club from getting its liquor license -- and right before the Super Bowl too. Which was just fine with Rick's president Eric Langan, who opened the joint as BYOB -- which meant the entertainers had the option of going topless or taking it all off, which is how it's been ever since. (So I was told by the nice woman who just answered the phone. What?) Meanwhile, the protests also sparked a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
That process began in earnest in April, according to the SOAH docket, with American Airlines leading the charge to deny Rick's its permitting paperwork. But, long story short, last week Administrative Law Judge Monica Garza handed down her lengthy ruling, which TABC received yesterday, in which she declares Rick's the winner. Writes Garza:
As grounds, the Protestants alleged that the place or manner in which Applicant may conduct its business warrants the refusal of the permits based on the general welfare, health, peace, morals, and safety of the people. Having reviewed the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) finds there is not a sufficient legal basis for denial of the permits. Therefore, the ALJ recommends that TABC issue the requested permits.
The judge's so-called proposal for decision, which lays out how this whole thing played out, follows. Dee Kelly Jr., American Airlines' attorney, tells Unfair Park we should ask corporate for comment; they're working on getting us a statement. Messages have been left for Langan. (Update: No comment.) Because this is far from over:
American Airlines or the other protesting parties have 15 days to file a response to Garza's proposal, and if they do that, then Rick's has another 15 days to respond. If nothing happens, then TABC's assistant administrator, Sherry Cook, decides whether to accept the judge's decision or kick it back. She has 45 days to do that. And then and then and then. This could drag out for a long time.
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Best-case scenario for Rick's is the company gets the permit in 60 days; worst-case scenario, it takes this to district court.
"They're on first base," says a TABC legal rep with whom I spoke, "but they're far from home." Which should be Rick's new slogan.Ricks Airport Cabaret