Last night, 50+ restaurant owners, employees, and customers took over the patio at Katy Trail Ice House for a “pep rally” held in opposition to a new proposal that would require bars on McKinney Avenue to obtain a special permit to keep the booze flowing after midnight.
Proponents of the new zoning overlay, including Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston, insist that these special use permits (known as SUPs) help ensure that neighborhood businesses operate ethically and are respectful of their residential neighbors. Under the new proposals, bars would be required to pay a fee and petition the council for a new SUP every two years.
In late 2015, when the measure was initially proposed, bar owners in Uptown voiced concerns that the new rule would seriously impact their businesses. "About 33 percent of all sales on McKinney Avenue happen after midnight," Parliament’s Eddie Campbell told Eater at the time. "For some of these bars, if they’re known to be a late-night destination, as much as 40 percent of their sales take place between the hours of 12 and 2 a.m."
Furgal McKinney, owner of McKinney Ave favorites Idle Rich and Black Friar Pub and strong opponent of the proposition, says that there are already plenty of required permits for bars which can be used to keep bars in check. “I think there’s three bars on McKinney causing problems,” McKinney told Eater at last night’s rally. “Why put the rest of the city through a two year process to prove they’re doing no wrong?”
In a lengthy post on Facebook, Kingston, who introduced the bill, insisted that the bar owners’ concerns were overblown. “[McKinney Avenue] is currently super vibrant, but it's starting to show signs of the same downward spiral we saw in DE and Greenville,” Kingston said in the post. “The neighbors have already abandoned the street for nightlife meaning that the clientele is overwhelmingly coming in from other places. We always want visitors to come to late-night districts, but if the district is repelling its closest neighbors, that's a problem.”
Still, bar owners aren’t exactly stoked about the policy’s passage. When asked whether he thinks his bar might be amongst those required to shut down after midnight, Katy Trail Ice House owner Buddy Cramer said “that’s the scary part, we have no idea.” Opponents of the proposal also say that the state of jeopardy for these bars could cause them to close and force investors to start looking elsewhere for new bar development. “Plano went to 2 a.m. two years ago, Frisco just went to 2 a.m.,” says McKinney, “and we’re talking about going backwards.”
The Dallas City Council’s zoning commission will hear public comment on the measure on Thursday, April 27 at 9 a.m., and local bar owners plan to show up at the meeting in force. The new rules have several hurdles to pass before actually impacting McKinney Avenue’s bars, but stay tuned for updates on this juicy political drama.