Civic Club Leaders, Govt. Officials Attempt to Block Restaurant, Redevelopment Efforts – PART TWO

Gene Wu Sharpstown Civic Meeting - Oct 20-2016Rep. Gene Wu (HD-137) remarks about Prime Daiquiri at Sharpstown Civic Meeting, October 2016.

PART TWO

After Bill Henderson approved the TABC application for Sam Mene’s Prime Daiquiri, more information comes to light about how hard civic leaders and elected officials worked to block this new business.

Local Govt. Officials Make Every Effort to Block TABC Permit and Business 

Rep. Gene Wu filed HB 1436 in February at the urging of the Sharpstown Civic Association (SCA), an additional step to try and block this business from opening. The non -partisan organization Texas Public Policy Action (TPPA), opposed the measure as the law attempted to change the definition of an open container. TPPA describes the potential negative impact on local businesses which sell alcohol in non-manufacturer sealed containers, recommending a no vote. The impact on craft beer producers by this state wide bill was unknown.

The action was largely hidden in the volume of bills and legislative activity and slipped past this observer. But it was assigned to a committee and on April 17th a hearing was scheduled. Rep. Wu introduced the bill to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, spending all of one minute and twenty-one seconds describing the intent of the bill. His sole objection was the drive through, car issue.House Criminal Juris Comm - 4-17-2017- C leBlanc HB 1436

SCA Vice –President Charmaine LeBlanc was called as a witness in support of the bill. She identified herself as a representative of the Sharpstown Civic Association, noting we, the SCA and community, were in favor of the bill. Of course we had no idea it had been filed, much less supported it.

She named PRIME DAIQUIRI, and described how the SCA and other “concerned citizens” had filed a protest with the TABC in order to block issuance of their Wine & Beer permit. That hearing was being conducted in Houston, at the Harris County Commissioners Court at the very same time. There is no question that Sam Mene’s business was the target of this bill.

LeBlanc’s statement lasted barely one minute and Rep. Wu was recalled to close the testimony. The bill was left pending, later voted out of committee, but did not receive a vote by the full House.

HB1436 Witness ListThis aggressive effort by Wu against Prime Daiquiri, a constituent he refused to even meet with, was done at the request of the SCA.  It was not disclosed to the community until the closing days of the legislative session.  No reports appear on social media, email, the SCAN newsletter, or the web site from the SCA requesting any feedback or input. They lobbied for this bill, without informing us, and with no transparency or accountability.

Their effort failed

Southwest Management District Supports Wu’s Protest

Rep. Gene Wu dispatched his staff member Beth Martin to the Board meeting of the Southwest Management District in late October 2016, shortly after the protests were filed. The minutes indicate Ms. Martin lobbied the board to join Rep. Wu in protesting “Prime Daiquiris to be located at Beechnut and 59.”

Public comments BETH MARTIN

The request was presented to the District’s public safety committee on Nov. 9th which they recommended for approval by the full board. On Dec 5th, the District’s Board accepted the committee recommendation and approved a -letter of support of Rep. Wu’s efforts- with Board member Steven Le Jr. voting No (among others) and Dir. Moore Abstaining. The record creates a question about Director Moore’s need to abstain, which would entail a conflict-of-interest of some type.

Minutes Dec 2016 SWMD Board Meeting SNIP

Despite board approval, it does not appear that a letter was produced or submitted as part of the public record in this matter, nor did any District representative attend the hearing.

At this stage, three levels of government, District, City, and State, are aligned to oppose this applicant, in what can only be described as a full court press.

The concern about Club Tequila operating in the old Carnaval spot brings up the issue of too many bars located near the residential subdivision. This was a theme across the handful of protests filed with the TABC. So it’s interesting that public official Steven Le Jr., who is a Southwest TIRZ and District board member, appointed by the Mayor and Houston City Council, has a long interest in a nearby property.

He is affiliated with the company that owns the shopping center at 8320 S. Gessner and the Southwest freeway with tenants that include SPEC’s Liquor and the ICLUB. This location was formerly the Amadeus Night Club, which was replaced by the “I Club” (MB963742).  Their TABC license was issued on Nov. 10th, 2016, and there appears to have been no protest or concern about this new club by the SCA or anyone else.

A person (perhaps a promoter, owner, or operator) affiliated with the now closed Amedeus Club, appears to be currently involved with the ENVY LOUNGE, the after hours club on S. Gessner across from Strake Jesuit, where a pregnant woman was murdered by the club’s former security guard. You may remember recent concern about that location from residents complaining about noise and suspected illegal activity to include human trafficking, drugs, and prostitution.

Envy Lounge has no TABC permit.

El Punto Del Oro, 8110 Southwest Freeway, a so-called bikini bar, which generally means dancers, operates in the triangle next to the applicant’s location. The unit is separately owned, has been subject to lawsuit, and HPD Vice action to include prostitution arrests. The former Papagayos closed and reopened as the new business in 2015, all standard operating procedure for the industry.

el punta

With a new Palace Inn open on the feeder road between the Bikini Bar and IClub, the availability of cheap hotel rooms, with long internet rumored hourly rates, is just outside the neighborhood entrance. All of these businesses should attract the close scrutiny of neighborhood leaders, but appear to have drawn little attention.

Meanwhile, a potential public safety threat “Daiquiris 2 GO #4” (BG978774) has been awarded a TABC license and will open soon across from Sharpstown Section 5,  in the retail center at 7330 SW Freeway. This appears to be the type of business the SCA would oppose, as it’s a to-go only drink place with no food, no investment, just a pop up store in a strip center.

IMG_1685

It seems the whole time the SCA was fixated on Sam Menes’ application, a night club and a daiquiri-to-go location were approved for business. What a mess!

We Can Support Economic Development without Harming Mom & Pop

Let’s think about the financial and emotional impact on a small business owner this effort created. Mr. Mene will have incurred thousands of dollars of legal fees, perhaps a year’s rent on an empty building, and lost sales. He will open for business though, and he will make it, or not.

I’m frankly uncertain at this point what the SCA is concerned about. I have to believe they are worried about some of these businesses too, just like the larger community. But in reality they now limit disclosure of information, take action on behalf of the neighborhood without input, and then complain about the lack of manpower to make a difference. This is right back to where we were in 2011-12.

The original questions about Prime Daiquiri were legitimate. I had them too, but I made an effort to conduct a reasonable level of due diligence. The SCA could have contacted Sam, and the property manager, but they did not. The Officers, not the Board, handled this process very poorly.

Indeed, the newest Directors are fine neighbors who are committed to improving the neighborhood. I have much respect and appreciation for the challenge they face. They deserve our support, because they’re going to need it.

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