Controversy Over a Distance Exemption for West Village Alcohol Sales Near School

There's a new exemption for alcohol sales within 300 feet of a school at the Dallas West Village development after a vote of the City Council Wednesday.

But a City Council debate about the change was more about procedure than policy.

The question centered on the corner of McKinney Avenue at Blackburn Street where a former Gap Store location is up for lease.

The location is within 300 feet of North Dallas High School.

It could be a good location for a small grocery store in the neighborhood that is surrounded by large apartment buildings with hundreds of tenants.

"A grocery store would be great here, very much needed," resident Elaine Romero said.

Roger Albright, an attorney representing West Village, said a lengthy process was required to obtain a special variance under previous city rules for alcohol sales at that location. Grocery tenants would only consider the location if beer and wine sales are allowed.

"We've already lost one tenant just wading through this," Albright said. "If we want a small grocery store, less than 10 thousand feet, but have beer and wine, we can't do it."

Councilman Philip Kingston got four other City Council Members to sign a memo requesting an agenda item at Wednesday's meeting on an exemption for West Village beer and wine sales near the school. Kingston said the Dallas Independent School District was not opposed to the exemption.

"This is a very simple change," Kingston said. "This is the process. I have followed the process."

Mayor Mike Rawlings objected to the use of a memo taking the issue directly to the City Council without first giving it consideration by a City Council Committee.

"You haven't asked me for anything like this in years," Rawlings told Kingston.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax said it skirted staff review.

"It didn't go through our normal process," Broadnax said.

Council Member Carolyn Arnold opposed granting the exemption for alcohol sales near the school.

"I'm very, very concerned about moving forward and I will not support it as it is presented today," Arnold said.

Council Member Jennifer Gates was the only other vote against the change. The exemption for West Village passed with an 12 to 2 vote. Most members agreed that individual requests for a variance would be granted in the long run anyway.

"It just seems to be to be superfluous to come back again and again for the same kind of fixes," said Councilman Rickey Callahan.

Neighbor Mitch Busker supported the idea of a grocery store at the location, but preferred alcohol at West Village to be reviewed on a case by case basis.

"The exemption, I totally disagree with. I think they should have to apply for a liquor license no matter what they're doing," Busker said.

State rules for the sale of alcohol will still apply in each case.

Deep Ellum is the one other Dallas neighborhood that has been granted an exemption for alcohol sales within 300 feet of a school.

Council Members said other neighborhoods may request similar treatment after the precedent set by today's vote.

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