The Village People
No Zoning blues: It's Haus vs. home(s)
As my mom always says, don't move to Alaska and then complain when it snows.
I'll amend that to "don't buy a condo in Rice Village next to a bar and then complain about the noise."
The bar in question is Hans' Bier Haus, the wonderfully chill, mostly open-air beer joint tucked off Kirby at the far northern edge of the Village. Though it was under different ownership, the bar was in place long before a high-rise condominium building was installed next door at 2520 Robinhood. ("Walk to quaint shops and restaurants," advertises the condo's Web site.) In 2005 Hans' was purchased by Paul Kellogg, Jackie Benson and Bill Cave and discovered by a few more beer-loving Houstonians (CultureMappers included).
The only ones not thrilled with the resurgence of Hans' Bier Haus were the neighbors, who started "throwing eggs and roofing tacks; using a laser-sighted gun scope to train a red dot on various customers, thus freaking them out; [and] throwing beer bottles and cans," according to the Houston Press. And we thought the giant sail awning erected in Hans' backyard was just for shade.
Last month the feud simmering between Hans' and the condos reached a fever pitch. Hans' threw a holiday party on Dec. 13, complete with enormous food spread and a performance by Ronnie Renfro and his 18-piece Big Band. Cave said he invited the condo residents—a gesture of good will or at the very least fair warning. Their response, according to Hans' employees and patrons, was to use hoses to waterlog the patio beforehand, and then turn the hoses on the bar, patrons, and band—including electric equipment. According to the Houston Chronicle, a trumpet player slipped in the water and broke his finger.
In response, according to the Chronicle, "Cave said in court papers that he went to the condo and was eventually successful in turning off the water at a faucet on a condo's porch. In the process, [condo general manager Art] Frederick said an angry Cave took the concierge by his tie, broke his phone and forced his way up in the elevator."
But this might not be the first water-based pranks coming from 2520 Robinhood. Commenter Kris on Swamplot notes, "I attended a Sugarball Express show on a Sunday Evening at Hans’ recently. It is my understanding that a noise permit was obtained for the show. The band started early and was to end early out of deference to the neighbors, and were careful to keep the volume at a reasonable level. Not halfway into the set, it seemed to begin raining. As the band was on a roofed stage and the patrons were under sails that the owner had installed, the band played on. After a while, a patron walked out to their car and returned to report that it was not raining in the parking lot behind Firestone. Or on the street. Or in front of the bar. Police then arrived following up a noise complaint, and the shower stopped."
Since then, it's been war. Cave was charged with misdemeanor assault. He, in turn, got a restraining order to prevent condo owners from throwing things onto the bar area and is seeking a permanent injunction as well as compensation for damaged equipment and lost patronage. Bar owners have filed a civil suit against three condo owners, who plan to file a countersuit, according to their attorney.
We think the (lack of) zoning laws, the precedent of Walter's on Washington winning a lawsuit against its noise-complaint-happy neighbors, common sense, and the general awesomeness of Hans' Bier Haus are all in their favor.
As for the condo owners? We think they'd be very happy on a quiet street in Klein. Or, you know, Wasilla.