Broke-down Palace

Back in December, before her club got in deep with the taxman, Elizabeth Edwards described neighborhood opposition to her Lower Greenville nightclub as "kind of like a tsetse fly...It goes away eventually."

So, it seems, has Edwards.
The club, the much-ignored Palace and Moonshine Cafe, has apparently contracted a bad case of sleeping sickness.

The club that ignited a neighborhood revolution over encroachment by the Greenville Avenue bar business has been dark since before Memorial Day, according to neighbors. What is being debated now is whether it's on life support or dead altogether and decaying under a cloud of mosquito netting. The club owes vendors money, and it has a fresh $8,985 tax lien pending against it from the Texas Workforce Commission, which collects the state's unemployment insurance taxes.

"If these aren't paid, we can get pretty aggressive, garnisheeing banks, that kind of thing," says Larry Jones, the agency's spokesman in Austin.

At the same time, the club's general manager, Bill Millet, says The Palace is still alive. It's being run mostly as a private party facility with events scheduled this month, he says. "There's been a lot of refocusing, a lot of cleaning up. I've been here a couple of months, and we are running private things. That's what really takes care of things from a financial point of view."

What's significant is not the end/refocusing/cleaning up of one of the cheesier clubs in Dallas, a place one customer described as "a cross between a Sadie Hawkins Dance and the early '80s." Indeed, while Edwards and her brother Spencer were boasting of the "million-dollar renovation" of the 12,000-square-foot Baptist church, unimpressed customers were wondering whether the million had been buried under it. Dallas Observer restaurant critic Mark Stuertz described the now-moribund Moonshine Cafe as having "the utilitarian feel of a 'Spam & flan' church-basement wedding reception." The chef packed up in April, and the menu became, in Millet's words, "like TGIFridays."

On May 11 the state declared that the club's parent corporation, Blues Club Inc., no longer existed because it failed to file a franchise tax report, records show. "We don't know how much tax was owed because they never filed a report," says Michele Kay, a spokeswoman for the agency, adding that the report was due last January.

Repeated calls to Spencer Edwards at the company business address--the same as that of Edwards' oil firm on Cedar Springs Road--were not returned. The landlord, Roger Andres, also did not return several calls.

Of course, as we said, the club's rumored passing--or fading into private-party oblivion--is not what's significant. A blast of dinosaur rock (their best night might have been Loverboy and its aged hit "Workin' for the Weekend") and cover bands in a creaky 70-year-old church building on a hard-to-find side street may not be the recipe for success.

The significant thing about The Palace is the way its sheer existence led to a neighborhood movement, a little action by the city and, ultimately, detente between the neighbors and some of the more reasonable bars on the strip.

But first, a little history. When The Palace opened last summer, it was the first time a club had moved so far into the neighborhood that it was right across the street from residents' homes, full block west of Greenville.

"The attitude was, we have the right to open. Too bad," says Cheryl Kellis, whose house faces the club across Summit Avenue.

The Palace did have the right to open. A long-ago zoning change put the church in the adjacent commercial district, and The Palace opened under laws that let places call themselves restaurants while operating as nightclubs.

The neighbors got the city to write a few tickets for noise, but that hardly slowed things down as much as the club's failure as the "hot-rockin'...kingdom of cool" it claimed to be.

"It's been pretty quiet lately," says Kellis, who heard each and every note of the Loverboy show last August from inside her house.

In the short time since the club opened, a moratorium on new businesses in the area has come and gone, a city commission is studying long-term solutions, and some club owners are attempting to find solutions to a few of the neighbors' complaints.

The last has happened because of people like James Slaughter, owner of the Firehouse Restaurant and the Whisky Bar and one of the main organizers of the Historic Greenville Avenue Business Association.

The group of about 15 or 20 bars, restaurants, and other businesses has been cleaning up the streets after weekend nights and launching a campaign to get customers to cut down on the littering, rowdiness, and--that most Greenville of activities--peeing in the neighbors' yards.

"We've printed up a logo: 'Honor Thy Urban Neighborhood,'" says Slaughter. "There are areas in New York and Chicago with residents living close to stores, bars, that kind of thing. I think that's why people move down here [to the Greenville area]," he says. "We have to get people who come here on the weekend to be more responsible in the way they treat the neighborhood." He says the association members--and other business owners--have attended neighborhood meetings, participated in crime watches, and generally tried to get to know and care about the neighbors.

"People on Greenville have been going out of their way," says Kellis. "They're making an attempt. We realize all the problems won't go away immediately."

At least one apparently has. But a new problem has taken its place. "Now," says Kellis, "I have to look at all those empty Palace parking lots.