Get off my lawn
Jury's in? Funeral bars officially labeled a "neighborhood nuisance" but cancontinue to serve alcohol
The David Crockett subdivision in Upper Kirby has had it up to here with a trio of bars, so area residents took their complaints to court in late October, maintaining that the bars perpetuated disruptive behavior and violated deed restrictions that prohibit the sale of alcohol.
Jurors emerged with a verdict on Wednesday, but many questions remain . . .
- Yes, two of the establishments — Roak and Hendricks Pub, dubbed "the funeral bars" for the funeral parlor they replaced — were deemed neighborhood "nuisances," allowing nearby homeowners to request county authorities to close the businesses. The third bar, named OTC, is not a nuisance.
- No, the deed restrictions can't stop alcohol sales, but they require commercial property owners (Thor Equities, also named in the case) to submit architectural plans to a neighborhood committee before development.
- The jury also rejected a racially-charged counter lawsuit claiming that the bar owners were targeted because of their Persian and Asian backgrounds.
- Defendants are required to pay $312,000 in legal fees to the David Crockett team.
Until Harris County judge Steve Kirkland makes a final ruling in the coming weeks, the three hotspots will remain open as residents seek a permanent injunction to shutter the "nuisance" bars.
Attorney Sanford Dow, who represents the subdivision, tells CultureMap that the jury ruling is a watershed moment in the city's longstanding tension between homeowners and developers. He labeled the verdict a "grand slam" against Thor Equities and a "home run" against the bars.
"There's no zoning in Houston, so people have to use deed restrictions to preserve the peace and value of their neighborhoods," explains Dow. "I'm working with 51 individuals from the neighborhood. Each person has volunteered their time and spent their personal finances to be a part of this lawsuit and protect the integrity of where they live."
"There's no zoning in Houston, so people have to use deed restrictions to preserve the peace and value of their neighborhoods," explains Dow.
Since the bars opened in summer of 2011, David Crockett residents say they have found their streets littered with strip club fliers, condoms and the occasional pair of underwear. During the trial, a teenaged girl testified that she and her father found a woman urinating on their front yard. Parking and noise also have been an ongoing issue.
"Over the past year, we've dealt with most of the nuisance complaints and will continue to work with neighbors," says Paul Pilibosian, who represents the business owners. "But the fact that we still sell alcohol is not something the neighborhood can restrict."
While he remains unsure how judge Kirkland will rule, Pilibosian considers the jury decision something of a victory for the bars.
"We're pretty happy with the verdict. The jurors determined that the alcohol restrictions are unenforceable, so we can stay open. Plus, OTC — the only one of the three bars that's actually outside — was not found to be a neighborhood nuisance."