More than once in recent weeks, Pete's hinted that perhaps Trees would once again take root on Elm Street, courtesy former Firewater talent booker and Vanilla Ice touring drummer Clint Barlow. Last time Pete checked in with Barlow, at the end of March, he was cautiously optimistic: "We're working on it," he told DC9, "but we'll see."
Today, he's significantly more encouraged. So too is building owner Belmor Corporation, whose rep, Carl Skibell, tells Unfair Park that Barlow "has a good idea for the area." So too are city officials.
I called Barlow today because I noted that on Thursday, the City Plan Commission will take up his application for the specific use permit necessary to obtain a certificate of occupancy and start construction. As you may recall, in January 2007, Kenny Brattain claimed the city's torturous SUP process chased him off, and stringent parking requirements led most folks to believe Trees would remain empty for, well, forever.
But Barlow says he's good to go, and city staff has recommended giving Barlow a two-year SUP subject to "a site plan and conditions." I've uploaded that site plan, if you're curious to sneak a peek.
"Providing nothing blows up in our face, I hope everyone opens their arms and welcomes us," he tells Unfair Park. "It'll be good for everyone."
Either Pete or I will attend the City Plan Commission confab on Thursday, where commissioners will determine whether Barlow does indeed have enough parking spaces to merit the SUP. Barlow says he does and then some, thanks in part to a clause in the ordinance that allows establishments within a quarter-mile of a DART station a 10 percent reduction in parking-spot requirements. Barlow says the SUP requires he have 31 parking space -- and that he's got between 34 to 38, more than enough.
David Cossum, the city's assistant director for planning, says Barlow's "coming close to parking everything on site," and says "if he can comply with the parking requirements, I don't think we'll have any problem at all." Then again, even if an issue does arise, Cossum says, "before they can get a CO [certificate of occupancy], they'll just have to negotiate a parking agreement with someone in the area."
Cossum also says to keep in mind that Barlow and Brattain's cases aren't at all similar, as the latter "had a lot of issues" with the city and withdrew his permit application before it ever reached the plan commission.
As for what Barlow's looking to do with the club, well, it'll be much the same as it was 18 years ago -- at least, it'll look familiar enough to us old-timers. But, he reminds, "today's clubgoer is more demanding than 18 years ago. Back then when we'd go down there, and it was kind of like it didn't matter if there were broken bottles or pee on the floor." In other words, the place'll be significantly tidier -- especially the bathrooms, a welcome change from the club that easily had among the worst in the city.
"The whole place will look awesome," he says.
And when will it open? Hard to say. Because even if it gets the commission's OK on Thursday, the SUP will still have to be high-fived by the Dallas City Council, most likely at one of its mid-June meetings. Barlow says he and the contractor think they could get the club open in July, should the council green-light the permit, but he'll likely wait till August or even September, when he says he has national shows on hold just in case.
And, yes, he knows what's in store for him: all the hand-wringing and chest-beating that will come with attempting to re-open one a club that died on December 28. 2005, and remains a perennial favorite even in its absence.
"You're damned if you do and damned if you don't," he says, laughing. '"People who loved it 18 years ago will be disappointed - it's not the same and never will be the same and wouldn't have been the same even if it had stayed open. But it will maintain the integrity it used to have. The scene isn't the same, the time isn't the same. But I am hoping that the hardcore people who kept it close to their hearts will give it a shot."
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