Yesterday, Kenny Brattain, the owner of Fat Daddy's Sound Shack in Lewisville and the man who plans to re-open Trees as a live-music venue some time this spring, sent to a few local media outlets a missive in which he kinda knocked around a city official and city procedures he believes are standing in his way. So this morning I figured it was only fair to have that city official -- who'd be David Cossum, incidentally, the assistant director of the city's plan division -- knock back.
Only a funny thing happened when talking to Cossum. From our conversation concerning Deep Ellum zoning and restrictions and requirements, I get the impression that Cossum doesn't exactly dispute Brattain's assertion that opening a club in Deep Ellum is a real pain in the ass. That's because, well, it's supposed to be a pain in the ass. That's precisely how the Deep Ellum Association wants it. That's precisely what the DEA got in June, when the city council passed an ordinance requiring specific use permits (SUPs) from anyone with a live-music venue. You gotta jump through a lot of hoops if you want to open a place in Deep Ellum, some of them on fire. Keeps out the riff-raff. Keeps out everyone, as a matter of fact, if they're not willing to jump, jump higher and keep on jumpin' till the city stays stop.
"They're frustrated," Cossum says. "And, yes, it's an unhappy process for some. It wasn't this way until June, remember. Every bar within the Central Business District needs an SUP, except those in Pegasus Plaza and Stone Street Mall. We view those areas as entertainment-focused, much like we used to view Deep Ellum till the Deep Ellum Association asked for something else. For the past 30 years I've been in Dallas, you'd think of Deep Ellum as an entertainment district. But concerns from the council and the Deep Ellum Association, in terms of what they saw as an upswing in crime, they wanted more control over the clubs -- not to prohibit the clubs, but to require an SUP."
Cossum says some of the problems Kenny and wife Sarah are having stem from an unhelpful landlord, who isn't providing them with the required documents -- among them, say, a building deed and land survey. Morton Rachofsky is the property's longtime owner.
"Part of their problem is they're dealing with an owner who doesn't care," Cossum says. "What they have told me is that they're just not giving them any help at all. Usually I turn to the owner and say, 'I need a deed, a survey,' and the owner has it. They're not getting it from the owner, so that's chasing them to the courthouse for a deed." Cossum says with an SUP permit, the city needs to totally clear not only the occupant but also the property itself, to the point of making sure its owner doesn't owe one cent in back taxes.
"I was going to call [Kenny or Sarah] here shortly to kinda go over everything one more time," Cossum says. "I am not sure it's as frustrating as it's ending up to be, but they thought it would make more sense. It's a club going in where there used to be a club, they figured last year. Then they saw, 'Well, hell, someone changed the zoning, I can't do this and this and this,' and from that point on, it's been one roadblock after another. But if someone spent a day, they could easily get together most of these documents." --Robert Wilonsky