Why did Dallas try to close bars at midnight?

The Dallas City Plan Commission this week rejected a proposal for a “late-night overlay” that could’ve been used to force certain businesses to close at midnight.

“There’s been an egregious misinformation campaign around this,” commission member Paul Ridley said.

The late-night overlay would not create a curfew in Dallas, it wouldn’t have forced any currently operating businesses to close at midnight, and it wouldn’t have immediately affected any business.

The overlay was a proposed “tool” that City Council could’ve placed over certain areas to curtail the opening of new late-night businesses such as bars and clubs. A new business wanting to open any place that the overlay was in effect would’ve been required to apply for a special permit to stay open past midnight. Businesses already open at the time the overlay was put in place would’ve been grandfathered in and wouldn’t require a special permit.

Commissioners pointed to Lower Greenville, where a planned development district that took effect in 2012 forced any business wanting to stay open past midnight to apply for a permit.

Ridley said that measure has led to a cleaner neighborhood and reduced crime.

“It has not put bars out of business except those who didn’t respect their neighbors and didn’t operate responsibly,” Ridley said.

Ridley and Michael Jung were the only two commission members who voted in favor of the late-night overlay.

The other 11 members present Thursday generally said that Dallas already has tools to punish irresponsible bar owners, such as codes for parking and noise.

But those codes are enforced only sporadically, says Uptown resident William Gruben, the only citizen who spoke in favor of the overlay Thursday. He lives less than two blocks from McKinney Avenue and says he deals with “a mammoth amount of drunks” who cause nuisances late at night.

Over the years, bars have expanded their outside seating areas, for which they are not required to provide additional parking. And code enforcement rarely writes tickets for cars violating “resident parking only” signs, much less for noise complaints, Gruben says.

Bar owners and their employees showed up by the dozens to speak against the late-night overlay. The Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Hotel Association of North Texas also opposed it.

The Dallas Restaurant Association instead proposed collaboration between business owners and neighbors to find solutions in areas such as Uptown, where nightlife encroaches on neighborhoods.

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