Zoning Woes: Careful What You Ask For

Dallas’ Garden Café denied booze permit on neighbors’ ‘what if’ concerns

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Commentary
    by Bruce Felps

    A couple’s therapist once sized up the ex and me in about 38 seconds of our first visit.

    “You’re a ‘what if’ person,” she said looking matronly, caringly at the ex, “and you’re a ‘so what’ person,” she sneered, contempt dripping from her words, in my general direction.

    That “what if” outlook bit an East Dallas restaurant owner in the hindquarters recently when he tried to obtain a special use permit from the city to allow beer and wine sales in his neighborhood establishment, which he could use to expand from lunch-only hours to lunch and dinner.

    By most all accounts, Dale Wootton and his Garden Café are the types of owners and businesses neighborhood residents hope open in their midst. In 1991, he took a dilapidated, roof-caving-in mini-strip center in the Munger Place-Junius Heights section of Old East Dallas, renovated the building, opened his own law practice and the restaurant, while helping reclaim the neighborhood from decay and crime. The restaurant’s name derives from the vegetable and herb garden out back that supplies recipe ingredients.

    His lunch-only establishment also opened during evening hours for neighborhood association meetings, PTA gatherings, and civic group confabs, during which he either served free beer and wine or allowed members to bring their own.

    The city, though, said no to his request for a beer-and-wine permit, saying you can’t leave out liquor from the permitting process. Surrounding neighbors let out a figurative gasp and said, figuratively, “What if Dale ever leaves? That would mean some shady character could open a full-blown bar right here in River City.” The City Plan Commission denied Wootton’s application.

    In the meantime, reviews showed Wooten that his allowing the BYOB libations and the giveaways violated the law, so he cut off that nicety as well.

    According to a Dallas Morning News article, “Now, most wish it could all go back to the way it was with BYOB.”

    Which all reminds me of another difference between me and the ex, who would try to tweak most anything in her never-ending quest for perfection.

    “Just leave well enough alone."


    Bruce Felps owns and operates East Dallas Times, an online community news outlet serving the White Rock Lake area. Seriously, the look that shrink shot him that day singed his shirt.

    The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of NBC, NBC 5, NBCDFW.com or its employees.