Dallas, at least as of this very moment, is all-wet when it comes to the off-premise sale of beer and wine. And as Rudy Bush noted this morning, there hasn't exactly been a rush to the Oak Cliff Municipal Center's permit office -- in large part because of the city and county's hoop-heavy permitting process that demands, among other things, applicants show how far their stores are from churches and schools.
As we noted last week, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission won't issue permits till the city and county and state comptroller have signed off on the applications. And that's not expected to happen till at least mid-December, and even then only for those who've already got TABC's OK elsewhere. "Sometimes cities and counties take a long time to certify," TABC spokesperson Carolyn Beck said. "And sometimes they move quickly."
As far as Dwaine Caraway's concerned, the city's moving way too quickly -- which is why, yesterday, he tried to get the council to pass a motion putting off the certification of last week's election results till December 15. Only Caraway, Carolyn Davis and Steve Salazar supported the motion before the council canvassed the results. Caraway called Unfair Park this afternoon to make it clear: He wasn't trying to usurp the will of the people. Far from it, he said. Rather, the mayor pro tem simply wanted the city to delay handing out permits till policies and procedures concerning permits were made clear to all who'd be affected by the change -- from store owners attempting to open beer and wine outlets to residents in dry parts of town still attempting to come to grips with the ramifications of the election's outcome.
"I have accepted defeat," he says. "The majority has spoken. Fine. My next move is since we are about to do this, now let's make sure we got our i's dotted and t's crossed, because we've proven to our own selves we make mistakes. Let's not make mistakes. Let's take time. This is going to happen, and let's make sure the applications are right, all of this is in place, and then let's go to work. That's where I am, and that's what my long-winded message was yesterday. I am not trying to communicate to everyone. I am trying to communicate on behalf of some people. Not everyone understands what the hell is going on, but the people who do elected me here, and they need to have a complete understanding of what's going to happen."
Caraway says he has questions for building officials and city attorneys that remain unanswered -- such as, is there a process in place that will keep "numerous" beer and wine outlets from opening close to each other at intersections. He points specifically to Loop 12 and Bonnie View Road -- home to several gas stations and convenience stores, outside of Caraway's district, and wonders what's to keep all of them from selling beer and wine.
"There's that car wash there, where we had all the drug problems a while back," he says. "Now, that's not my district. But you have the car wash there. You got the little tobacco shop there. The pizza shop. And there's a 7-Eleven on the corner. And a Valero and the Gold Star convenience store, and across the street's another one. And down the street is the Texaco service station, and behind that's one of the worst set of apartments in the city. All I'm saying is that's a little overbearing right there. That's a little much. And there are identical corners like that in other corners that present the same kind of concerns in South Oak Cliff and Pleasant Grove, where we've worked hard to get those corners under control. ...
"I'm concerned about the issue of distance, and all I was saying yesterday was let's deal lwith this on the front end, satisfy my concerns on the front end, and we won't have a problem. But if we wait till the election is passed ... if we have to fight it, it puts the taxpayers in jeopardy, because if we made a mistake out of haste, then the taxpayers have to pay. My only thing was, let's understand what we're about to do.
"But right now, we can't regulate. I could come put in a beer and wine store right next to he Observer." (I told him this was fine by me -- our next-door liquor store just closed. Space is presently for rent. Caraway passed on the suggestion.)
"Look," he says, "I got 242 churches in my district alone. I won't have as many stores opening as other district. I wasn't just fighting just for my district. I'm not one of those just-my-district people. But I know on Forest and Audelia and in other people's districts, I know what's coming. You live in a dry part of town now. What if you had eight of them right at the corner. Will you be satisfied with that? Should there be that many? Do you need that many? And what about the trucks? The Schlitz truck gotta come. The Bud truck's gotta come. The Corona truck's gotta come. You gonna be happy with that? If you have eight different stores on that corner, does that impact your neighborhood."
Caraway also wants to make it clear: He's not working with attorney Andy Siegel, who tells Unfair Park today that expects to file suit to overturn the election as soon as tomorrow -- " if the City gives us the certified copies of the Canvassing, etc.," he says via e-mail.
"I've accepted the results," the council member says. "I've moved on. I don't have anything to do with what Siegel's doing. My effort and my responsibility is to protect my neighborhood as best we can and make sure they're not close to schools, make sure it's not being sold to children, make sure it's not being sold at 3 in the morning ..."
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I stopped him. I said: But, wait, the law's still the law. It's not like we voted to sell beer to minors.
"No, but what changes are the hands involved," he says. "They already sell single cigarettes and single cigars to the kids already. Now, if you sell a cigarette to a kid, you think I don't think you're going to sell him a Four Loco? There's no honor when it comes to people making money -- some people, not everybody. When it's happening and you know it's happening and you've seen it happening every day and the police know it's happening and the community knows it's happening, the biggest disservice we can do is turn our head."
He concludes with a salient point: In South Dallas, he reminds, you'll find convenience stores not just at major intersections, but in residential areas. And that, he says, is a significant concern not to be overlooked during the permitting process -- the influx of trucks down narrow streets that are already dimly lit and poorly maintained.
"Just remember: The stores that'll open in North Dallas are on thoroughfares," he says. "But these things are off in the neighborhoods in our part of town. The big trucks have to go inside the residential neighborhoods, and not just on Lancaster and Overton to the 7-Eleven. They have to go through the little-bitty baby streets, and all those trucks gotta come in all day and all night."