On Lower Greenville, Even "Good Businesses" Have to Fight For Their Right to Party

For the first time in 18 years, Dodie's Seafood Cafe on Lower Greenville won't be having its annual Fat Tuesday outdoor live-music shindig beneath a rented tent set up in the parking lot. The reason: The city of Dallas's Office of Special Events has warned owner Chris McGuinness that a single phone call will prompt a visit from the Dallas Police Department. According to an e-mail McGuinness received Thursday from event coordinator Charkietha Thompson, "Per Chief [Vince] Goldbeck if one (1) complaint call comes in you would have to move the band inside."

McGuinness tells Unfair Park today he's ditching the tent tomorrow because there's no way he's investing $1,000 in a band -- not to mention several hundred dollars more for off-duty police, outdoor heaters and so forth -- if all it takes to shut down the party is a single complaint.

"We just serve beer and wine, and we're family-friendly -- we've got the whole 'What Lower Greenville Wants' package," says McGuinness. He says he's been told by city officials that they don't want a repeat of the Good Records birthday-bash incident in April, when law enforcement officials pulled the plug following complaints of loud noise and improperly filed permits. "We've never been a bar, and now they're saying because of Goood Records, they ruined it for everyone. Why would you put Dodie's in the same category as Good Records? Because the city can't crack down on bars they're coming after us?"

(Incidentally, when reached by Unfair Park today, Lowest Greenville West Neighborhood Association's Bruce Richardson's says people are "mistakenly thinking I am fighting [Chris's] permit, and we have no interest whatsoever in crashing his party." Richardson, matter of fact, said he was calling from a ski slope in Colorado.)

Thompson and Golbeck are unavailable today -- both are taking forced furlough days off. Council member Angela Hunt, who reps Lower Greenville, says she's unfamiliar with the Dodie's issue but acknowledges that this small incident is party of a much larger problem that continue to plagues Lower Greenville.

"It's part of a larger issue of having continuous, regular problems with bars on Lower Greenville who don't get the required permits, who game the system so they can avoid having to go through a public process and get the proper permits," she tells Unfair Park. "You have an incredibly problematic situation with an over-saturation of bars there. Every weekend, neighbors around Lower Greenville have to put up with drunks coming into their neighborhood wth noise, with fights, with crowds, and we have to expend $250,000 on additional police to keep these bars under control, and it's a waste of money.

"Lower Greenville is zoned community retail, not bars. Never has been, and folks who think, 'Hey, you move there, you know what you're getting into,' they're missing the point. These folks are operating on the line of legality. They're not obtaining specific use permits to exist as a bar on Lower Greenville. They are pretending to be restaurants, and there's a reason you have to get permits to operate as a bar. There's a high level of frustration that spills over when good businesses like Good Record and Dodie's want to hold special events. There's such a high level of frustration week in and week out with noise and traffic and drunks. Residents feel like enough's enough, and it's an unfortunate situation that these bars that cause the problem make it difficult for good places to hold their activities."

So, then, when will the city step in and do something about it?

"I'm working with Chief Golbeck and Pauline Medrano to address it," she says. "We have had extended conversations with business and property owners about this. It's not a simple solution, but I think we can resolve much of this if the property owners are willing to work with the city on a solution."

Of course, that does nothing for McGuinness, who still can't figure out why, after all these years, the city has opted to rain on his Mardi Gras parade.

"I swear, I am about to break my lease and go up to the 'burbs," he says. "Those guys want me up there. They want my money. Would they [the city of Dallas] rather have a tattoo parlor? We didn't do anything wrong. I mean, We could be an SMU bar open till 2 with people throwing up in neighbors' yards. I'm gonna have a DJ inside playing Mardi Gras music but no band inside because I don't want the city to shut me down."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky