Late yesterday, I was told that the owners of several long-established live-music venues in Deep Ellum club did not know they had till the end of the year to get specific use permits -- SUPs -- from the city in order to keep their doors open. Far as they knew, only new clubs had to follow the procedure -- a process so torturous that in January, it drove off Kenny Brattain, who had wanted to re-open Trees following its demise due to bankruptcy. Turns out, everyone needs 'em -- and the clubs are feeling "blindsided," says one Deep Ellum vet, who warns of "a collective uproar" over this issue.
In June 2006, the Deep Ellum Foundation got the city council to create the SUP process, in order to keep out tattoo parlors and other, ya know, troublesome elements -- which is to say, the under-age dance clubs that welcomed the alleged hoodlums some folks claimed were running wild in the streets. All the older clubs were grandfathered in -- so they thought. Turns out, yeah, not so much, says Barry Annino, the president of the Deep Ellum Foundation and a member of the Deep Ellum Public Improvement District board, who was behind last year's SUP victory.
I e-mailed Annino last night about the confusion. His response -- and more -- after the jump.
Last night, Annino told Unfair Park via e-mail: "All grandfathers [have been] thrown out for clubs and bars. All clubs and bars must have a SUP by December 30. All clubs and bars over 2,500 ft. must have parking: one (remote parking) space for every 100 feet over 2,500."
I then sent him a bunch of questions, among them: When did this happen, anyway? And how? And did the club owners know about this before it happened? Annino told me to give him a ring, so I did. And this is what he said.
"That was never the case. That was never mentioned. There were no grandfathered clubs."
So, I asked him, the club owners just took it for granted that they didn't have to get a SUP?
"They must have," Annino said. "All I can tell you is the property owners knew the deal."
When I told Annino the names of three specific clubs whose owners I was told had no idea they needed to get a SUP, he said, in short, Not possible. He insists that since last year, there was at least one meeting at the Gypsy Tea Room to discuss the SUP process, and there was plenty of info made available to landlords and club operators regarding the change in regulations.
"The property owners had a year and a half to know," he says. "They were all in the process. Everyone who owns a building knows the deal. And if a bar doesn't know they need to talk to the property owner, because there's no other way to tell you."
Far as he's concerned, the clubs who claim they were taken by surprise are "in denial."
"All the clubs were grandfathered in before the ordinance change in '06, because most of them were big," Annino says. "Europa's 14,000 square feet, and they have 12 parking places. The Bone is 4,000 square feet without any parking at all, and they were all grandfathered in because there was nothing but clubs. But everyone said we need to go back to the way it should be: If you're 2,500 square feet and under, there are no parking requirements, but for everyone else, parking is required."
So all the clubs have till the end of the year to take care of business. What happens if they don't get their SUPs? Well, they could face fines from the city or get shut down, with the latter a real possibility. And Annino has no sympathy for them who don't get it done.
"The property owner can say they don't know, but it's like running a red light and saying, 'I didn't know it meant stop,'" Annino says. "In 18 months, you'd thik the word would have gotten around to the clubs." If it hasn't before, perhaps it just did now. --Robert Wilonsky
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