Recent shootings renew call to adopt late-night overlay for downtown Dallas businesses

Recent shootings in Uptown Dallas have prompted a city council member to consider advocating for new licensing requirements for bars and other late-open businesses in the neighborhood.

Council member Paul Ridley said implementing a late-hours overlay – similar to that in place for Lower Greenville – “might be worth considering for Uptown”. This could require businesses wishing to stay open after midnight to apply for a special use permit, which would have to be renewed periodically.

Ridley’s comments followed a spate of shootings, some late at night and on weekends, in the neighborhood home to a number of bars and nightclubs.

More recently, Jerriun Maxie, 42, was shot and killed outside Sidebar, just off the main nightlife stretch, on February 7. Marcus Jawan Branch, 39, was arrested for murder a few days later.

Doormen wait outside in preparation for a line of Uptown revelers at Sidebar in Dallas, TX on February 19, 2022. (Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

Other recent incidents include a Dec. 12 shooting that left two people injured outside a bar, and at least three shootings last year in which shots hit bystanders. Video of one of these shootswhich showed a man indiscriminately firing a handgun on McKinney Avenue, went viral.

Complaints about violence and noise in Uptown aren’t new — nor are the proposals intended to reduce them. Similar talks have been met with vocal opposition from business owners worried about the new fees, as well as developers and landowners worried the requirements could force businesses out.

New licensing requirements could represent another point of contention between bar and club owners and some of the 13,000 people who live in Uptown – a relationship that has sometimes acrimonious summer.

A handful of clubs or a “strong gun culture”?

Kathy Stewart, executive director of Uptown Dallas Inc., a nonprofit group that manages public improvements in the neighborhood, thinks violent crime issues began to boil over as businesses recovered from the pandemic. Some club owners, she said, have tried to recoup losses by hiring promoters of disreputable reputation.

Dallas, unlike other major cities across the country, actually saw a drop in violent crime last year. The Ridley District, which includes Uptown but also extends to Lower Greenville and parts of northeast Dallas, saw a 9.2% decrease in crimes against people, including assaults, homicides and sexual offences, so far this year. Year-to-year fluctuations in crime rates are not uncommon and are not necessarily indicative of a larger trend.

The Dallas Police Department did not provide violent crime statistics in Uptown despite repeated requests from The Dallas Morning News.

Stewart said Uptown Dallas Inc. is “all in and bringing in as many sources as possible to support Uptown” in terms of security. The organization has contracted with a private security company to patrol the neighborhood during peak hours starting this year.

Although private security does not have the power to enforce laws, Stewart said guards have defused incidents, such as minor traffic accidents, that have led to violence in the past.

But Ridley noted that the presence of police and security guards is not always a deterrent. Police were very close to the brazen shooting in the middle of McKinney that went viral last year and responded within seconds.

Ridley said the problem lies with “a strong gun culture in our community.”

“It is, to some extent, the result of the liberalization of gun control laws at the state level, over which we have no control at the city level, [and] has led to a number of unfortunate gunfire incidents where people feel like there’s nothing wrong with settling gun disputes,” he said.

Ridley said he’s concerned that Texas’ new unlicensed transportation law could exacerbate gun violence issues.

“Reluctant” support

Buddy Cramer, managing partner of the Katy Trail Ice House, has resisted past attempts to implement a late-night overlay. But, he says, he “reluctantly” came to the conclusion that it’s the best idea for Uptown.

“As a business owner, you just have to say, ‘Here, the government, we trust you!’ — that’s usually not where I’m from,” Cramer said. “But I don’t know of any other way to fix it. is worrying.

While Cramer’s business is a few blocks from the main nightlife thoroughfare on McKinney, he said talk of security issues in Uptown has become hard to avoid. The new regulations, he said, are a necessary constraint.

“It’s such a shame that everyone has to go through this extra expense to get there because of a handful of irritating businesses,” he said.

Kelsey Erickson Streufert, spokesperson for the Texas Restaurant Association, said the group’s chapter in Greater Dallas shares Ridley’s concerns about violence.

But, she said in a statement, “As we move forward with this important work, we want to work with our policymakers to avoid unnecessary costs or regulatory burdens for local restaurants, many of which are still struggling to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic. .”

Ridley said his office was “working with stakeholders and assessing public support for an SUP or similar ordinance regulating late-night hours,” but no timeline has been set for a vote. He added that he understands and appreciates “the value of having a reasonable fee schedule”.

Tags : covid pandemic
Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement