Dallas's City Plan Commission voted Thursday against creating a late-hours overlay, a so-called "midnight curfew" for late-night businesses. If enacted, the overlay could have required businesses in certain neighborhoods to acquire additional permits in order to operate between midnight and 6 a.m. The code amendment faced fervent opposition from bars, restaurants, real estate developers and even VisitDallas, many arguing that the overlay would have financially crippled places that do extensive business after midnight, particularly bars that serve until 2 a.m.
For about a year, several heated workshops and hearings have discussed the overlay, which would have affected bars, restaurants, retailers and even hotels. While existing businesses would have been deemed noncompliant but still have been able to operate without the late-night permit, any new business would need to apply in order to operate between midnight and 6 a.m.
Uptown was the first neighborhood in the city's sights for a late-hours overlay after neighborhood complaints about bars on McKinney Avenue. Several Uptown bar owners and managers have stated at meetings that nearly 50 percent of their revenue comes in from midnight to 2 a.m. and that they feared for the future of their establishments.
In the end, the Plan Commission voted down the amendment.
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"I’m philosophically very concerned with using what is a major jackhammer to deal with a limited series of problems," said Gloria M. Tarpley, chairwoman of the City Plan Commission. "There is a chilling effect that takes place when a city indicates a disposition to shut down an industry or to potentially shut down an industry."
According to the City Plan Commission's agenda for the Sept. 28 meeting, the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee recommended no change to current zoning regulations, but the "staff recommendation" was to approve the creation of the overlay. After what became a five-hour meeting — with other issues voted on before the overlay — the Plan Commission sided with the advisory committee, which led to cheers from service industry employees and owners in the room.
The tools to deal with "bad actors," Plan Commission members argued, are already in place but are not actively enforced.
"These are very real problems which are best dealt with through enforcement," Commissioner Tony Shidid said. "The city of Dallas already has the tools to deal with these issues."