If there’s one thing that Uptown Dallas is known for, it’s the bar scene. For better or worse, everyone that has lived here more than about five minutes knows that you can always head to McKinney Avenue for a drink. In recent years, though, the bar scene has created some headaches for the massive influx of new apartment complexes to the neighborhood, and a new resident-backed proposal could soon fundamentally change Uptown’s nightlife scene.
Last week, NBC DFW reported that The Uptown Neighborhood Association -- TUNA for short -- was considering a proposal to require most bars in the neighborhood to close at midnight. Under the new proposed rules, bars in Uptown would be required to obtain a special permit to keep their doors open after midnight. According to Uptown Neighborhood Association spokesperson Tony Page, the motivation behind the proposal is to "draw the boundaries of this district as narrowly as possible."
As NBC DFW noted, the proposed model for Uptown is already in place in Lower Greenville, a district similarly known for its entertainment and nightlife. In 2011, after concern over intoxication-related arrests and a string of violent crimes, Lower Greenville was designated a "planned development district," which required bars in the area to obtain a special use permit to stay open until 2 a.m. At the time, bar owners complained that the rezoning was unfair because only establishments within the boundaries of the designated development district would be required to pay the $1,100 yearly permitting fee.
In Uptown, the sentiment is pretty much the same. As Eddie "Lucky" Campbell, co-owner of Parliament and current candidate for president of the North Texas chapter of the United States Bartending Guild told Eater, the news hit the local bar community in a big way. "The posts on social media about the proposal were the most viral that I’ve ever seen," says Campbell. "Bar owners, managers, employees -- everyone was sharing and talking about it."
For some bars in Uptown, the new proposal could mean a serious hit to their business. "About 33 percent of all sales on McKinney Avenue happen after midnight," says Campbell. "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." This dip in revenue could have some unintended consequences, namely in losing key bartenders and service staff that help make McKinney Avenue such a successful nightlife district.
Speaking at a town hall meeting to discuss the proposal last Thursday, Fat Rabbit general manager Lauren Santagati said that the new rules would be "traumatic" for the newly-opened establishment. Cheston Christie, co-owner of Christie’s Sports Bar, was equally pessimistic. "You’re taking away two hours, 365 days a year," he said. "It would affect me adversely."
"These bars and restaurants are staffed with the city’s best bartenders and wait staff," says Campbell. "When you reduce their income by that much, you’re going to lose those key employees. You almost have to re-concept your business because you’re no longer able to make money in what used to be an incredibly profitable time for a lot of bar owners."
Campbell’s own bar, Parliament, is just a few blocks away from McKinney Ave, and its owners have worked closely with Post Properties, the landlords of the adjacent buildings to foster an environment that is safe and respectful of its residential neighbors, like closing the patio at 11 p.m. on weeknights and keeping the music to a reasonable level. In that, Campbell sees a compromise.
"Business owners have an obligation to their neighborhoods and communities," he says. "If a bar is blasting music on a patio with no guests, that’s unnecessary. If guests are being unruly, that needs to be fixed." According to The Dallas Morning News, discussions for the proposal are "preliminary," and no planned development district has been outlined for Uptown just yet, which means that your favorite watering hole is safe... for now.