DALLAS (CN) – Determined to shut down certain bars in an area of Dallas known as Lowest Lower Greenville, city council members passed an unconstitutional law that restricts businesses operating after midnight, the busiest hours for bars, two such establishments claim.
Dallas city councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano have spent the last two years trying to hold down Greenville Avenue Service Bar dba Service Bar and Mylonas Investment Corporation dba Yucatan, according to the complaint in the District Court of Dallas County.
Hunt and Medrano shirked the authority of the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission and pushed for a city ordinance that “targets alcohol-related businesses,” the bars say.
Passed in January, the law requires businesses in a section of the Greenville Avenue area to obtain a specific-use permit if they want to stay open between midnight and 2 a.m. Any business that fails to do so cannot operate past midnight as of Sept. 23, 2011 – the same day that the bars filed suit against the city of Dallas.
“There is no shortage of evidence from the city’s agents that the purpose and aim of the ordinance was to regulate and close down bars in the Lowest Lower Greenville area so the city could install businesses it favors,” the bars claim.
“According to Councilwoman Hunt, once the area has been removed of the businesses the city has blacklisted, she will make an effort to work toward investing millions into the streets and trash cans to make it a nice place,” the bars say.
“If this ordinance stands, it will effectively close plaintiffs’ establishments, as 98% of their revenue and therefore all of their profits will be lost, along with their investment-backed expectations from their history of operating as a bar at their current respective locations,” the bars say.
“Generally, on the limited nights of the week when the establishments are open, patrons do not arrive at these establishments until midnight, the very hour these businesses are now required to close,” the bars argue. “Effectively, the hours that the city has chosen to shut down businesses are the only profitable hours for these businesses.”
Even though Dallas is a home-rule city, it does not have the authority to contradict the regulations of the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, according to the complaint. The bars describe the special-use-permit process as costly and “ever-changing.” Since they have been unsuccessful in obtaining their permits, this negates the licenses granted to them by the commission, according to the complaint.
The bars sued the city for violating multiple rights granted by the Texas Constitution, breach of contract and tortious interference with existing contracts. They seek a ruling that the ordinance is unconstitutional.
Richardson-based attorney T. Craig Sheils with Sheils Winnubst represents the bars.