City Hall was kind enough yesterday to pass along a recording of Monday's meeting of the city's Transportation and Environment Committee meeting. That's the meeting during which DART board member Jerry Christian told council member Jerry Allen he was no longer associated with the litigation attempting to overturn the vote last November that made it legal to sell beer and wine across Dallas. Attorneys Leland de la Garza and Andy Siegel said separately they hadn't heard Christian had removed himself as one of the two plaintiffs.
Efforts to reach Christian have been unsuccessful, so I wanted to make sure I heard him correctly. So, to recap: Allen wrapped up the interviews with Dallas Area Rapid Transit board candidates by asking Christian, "With the lawsuit against the city, do you think that's hurt your ability to serve as a DART board representative?" To which Christian replied, in full:
"I'm not on that lawsuit now, and when I was on it, as any other citizen, I thought my lawsuit was based on what I thought was best for the city. I'm still not in favor of the law that was passed for wettin' up Dallas, but it passed. And, ya know, I'm still gonna do everything I can to fight it. But I'm not on that lawsuit anymore. I'm just like any other citizen: When I think something's not good for the city, I feel I have the right to voice my opinion and be a part of what I feel is better suited for the people in which I serve as a leader and the constituents in the area where I serve. Wettin' up Dallas in the southern sector is not a good thing, and I'm still not in favor of it."
Allen, who hasn't returned several messages left at his council office, then said, for whatever reason, "Leaders have passion." Said Christian, "Yes, sir."
Turns out, Christian's name does indeed remain on the litigation -- including the 90-page doc filed on Monday by de la Garza and Siegel. That filing takes issue with the city's response to the attorneys' motion for summary judgment, filed in February, in which the anti-wet side claims City Secretary Deborah Watkins erred when she said there were enough legitimate signatures on those Keep the Dollars in Dallas petitions turned in last May to trigger the local option election. Featuring an excerpt from a deposition taken of the assistant city secretary, it's worth reading in advance of next week's hearing on the matter.
Since Christian says he's "not on that lawsuit now," I thought I'd ask the other plaintiff -- real estate veteran Marcus Wood -- where he stands. Our chat follows. So too my conversation with the president of Centennial.
First off, Wood pointed out he's known Schutze since forever; Merten too. He asked how they were. Said he hadn't seen Jim in a long while down at City Hall. He reminded me: "I am a 70-year-old guy who's very familiar with Riverfront and a native Dallasite." At which point I told him what Christian said and asked if he knew anything about that.
"I wouldn't be able to comment whatsoever," he said. "I don't know anything about that."
I asked if he was still associated with the litigation.
"Let's put it this way: I know basically everything that's going on," he said. "I would refer you to my legal counsel. They speak for me."
I asked if he's paying for the lawsuit or are there outside interests -- like, say, liquor stores -- footing the bill.
"I leave all those types of questions solely up to my legal counsel," he said. "I will tell you this, and it is well known in the community. I've been a real estate broker -- Sam knows this, Jim knows this, the people at KERA, most of the media people know this -- I have personally been the broker, my corporation has, on way over 100 acres along Riverfront Boulevard. And that's a wet-dry line. And I probably know more about the wet-dry lines of Dallas than anyone. There's probably no one who knows them better than me. Let's put it this way: I am personally very knowledgeable and very involved and understand the impact this has. One thing you might wish to do as you look at things, you might look to see what has so far been the impact of the local option election on retailers near wet-dry lines."
So I did. I called Lance Lively, the executive director of the Austin-based Texas Package Stores Association, who referred me to Greg Wonsmos, the president of Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits -- which, on Monday, announced that it had bought Majestic Liquor Stores.
Wonsmos said he didn't have the numbers in front of him, "but I know there has been a significant impact" on package stores since the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission began handing out permits at the end of the year. "Retailers in this market, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of their business has been beer and wine, so that's a logical progression on this issue -- that it would cut into business. I've seen it."
He and I agreed to speak again Friday, by which time he'll have the numbers pulled together. He also said that Centennial is not funding the litigation against the city, just keeping a close eye on it because, after all, "it's a critical issue."
Wood insists, though, there's not only a drop in sales but that "there have already been closures." He says the Buy Low Discount on Riverfront, which doubles as a Chevron station, closed down two weeks ago. (And, sure enough, no one answers the phone there this afternoon.)
"Its primary products were fuel sales and beer," Wood says. "And it's closed. It is true there have been major, major, major impacts on established businesses. Personally, I am hard-pressed to find anything that says Dallas is selling more beer or more wine than it ever did. I think it's just being redistributed." Keep the Dollars in Dallas Response to Anti-Wet Motion
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