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With Petition Drive And Eno's Expansion, Things Keep Improving In Oak Cliff -- Especially For Beer Lovers

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As you may know from Jim Schutze's cover story this week, one of the issues challenging Oak Cliff businesses is the neighborhood's dry status. Liquor stores are banned, and some grocery stores such as Whole Foods find it economically unfeasible to open in the area, as the profit margin is simply not high enough without beer or wine sales. Being dry also creates headaches for would-be bar owners and restaurateurs selling alcohol in Oak Cliff, as they must maintain a "private club" status, which is little more than a paperwork-heavy bureaucratic maneuver that requires them to keep customer information on file.

Fortunately for beer drinkers and other sensible souls, Progress Dallas, backed by major grocery chains and the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, will petition to give voters the option to vote on two propositions that would go a long way toward eliminating the city's confusing wet-dry boundaries. One would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer and wine, and the other would allow restaurants to sell alcohol without requiring "club" memberships.

Count Matt Spillers, owner of Eno's Tavern in the Bishop Arts District, as a strong supporter of both. Lifting the law would give restaurants a greater chance to succeed in formerly dry areas. It would also make things a hell of a lot easier for Eno's Pub, his new endeavor upstairs from the pizza tavern. With its finely curated selection of craft brews and its support of homebrewers, Eno's Tavern is already Oak Cliff's premier beer destination. The upstairs expansion will further cement that status.

Spillers, himself an Oak Cliff resident, is excited about the economic development potential for the area represented by the petition.

"If you want to sell alcohol in a dry area, you're essentially owning two businesses," he says. "One business is your restaurant that sells your food and non-alcoholic beverages. The second is your private club, and it's a not-for-profit operation that purchases alcohol for its members. Every time a member comes in, they're getting an alcoholic beverage, and essentially they're paying for the club to purchase more alcohol for their next visit. That's kind of the loophole for the whole system."

This confusing process makes things unnecessarily difficult for restaurateurs and is a major deterrent for entrepreneurs, he says. The change would also simplify the business of receiving shipments of alcohol for restaurants in dry areas -- and eliminate a distribution middleman, allowing restaurants to pay the same price as establishments in wet areas.

Regardless of whether the proposition makes it to the November ballot and is passed into law, he has great news for Oak Cliff beer lovers: the planned March opening of Eno's Pub.

While the place is still under construction, a quick tour yesterday afternoon was enough to show its promise. It will be an old-fashioned pub with stained-wood walls, plaid wallpaper, furniture made from salvaged wood, dart boards, a foosball table -- and no televisions. Food will include Eno's thin-crust pizza plus additional Texas-style locavore-pleasing entrees and snacks in the $3 to $5 range.

Most important, in addition to the tavern's current selection of microbrews and imports, the pub will offer small-batch special-edition brews -- many of which are exceedingly difficult to find in the area. Along with adding a few Belgian and German beers to the selection, Spiller mentions Dogfish Head's Occasional Rarities, Ommegang Three Philosophers, New Belgium's Lips of Faith, Samuel Adams "LongShot" winners and Brooklyn specialty beers. 

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