Granada III: The Neighbors Strike Back

In our last episode (“Granada II: The Sequel,” January), we learned that the great old theater, despite rumors to the contrary, was to become-a great old renovated theater. Under the direction of its new operators, Keith McKeague and John Appleton. the Lower Greenville institution would be getting some badly needed repairs and would reopen early in 1987-we thought.

But the saga continues. And the Granada has not reopened. On January 13, McKeague and Appleton, who were making great headway on the renovation, lost their building permit. It was suspended, say Dallas building officials, because the theater-to-be did not look like a theater-to-be.

“It doesn’t look like a theater to me,” says assistant building official Cherryl Peterman. “They were building tiers for tables and chairs. We never real-ly looked closely enough at the plans in the first place.”

The building inspectors’ official position is that they made a mistake; they never should have issued the new operators a building permit in the first place, Peterman says. Why? Because, as we explained in January, the zoning for the parking lot behind the Granada is restricted to theater use only. If the Granada is, in the city’s opinion, a restaurant or bar, that’s a violation of the zoning restrictions. McKeague and Appleton maintain that their renovations will indeed produce a theater, albeit a theater that serves beer and wine and some munchies that aren’t usually offered at the movies-things like pizza and chicken fingers. They plan to put , 440 chairs on tiers-with tables-’so people have a place to sit their food and drinks,” McKeague says, adding that only 20 percent of the chairs will have access to tables,

So, how did the city discover | its “mistake”? Well, a concerned neighbor of the Granada, Joan Smotzer, past president and current board member of | the Greenland Hills Neighborhood Association, brought it to the city’s attention.

“We don’t need any more bars or restaurants on Greenville Avenue,” says Smotzer, who insists that the new Granada would be exactly that-a bar/restaurant-despite the claims of McKeague and Appleton. So on Monday, January 12, Smotzer called the building inspector “to make sure he knew about the special restrictions on the Granada property.” Smotzer’s phone was smoking by the end of that day. She talked to enough people at City Hall to make sure the ball was rolling. On Tuesday morning, the 13th, Cherryl Peterman called Smotzer.

“I told her about my concerns, and she let me know that she had dispatched an inspector to take a look at the Granada,” Smotzer says.

Later that day, the city ordered all work stopped on the (theater? bar? restaurant?), and McKeague and Appleton turned their energies toward persuading the neighbors. On the 15th, Appleton attended a meeting of the Greenland Hills Neighborhood Association. What happened there can be described as a “healthy discussion,” according to Smotzer. In the end, Appleton offered to send an unbiased observer to Atlanta to take a look at a Cinema ’N’ Drafthouse there, which is the closest thing to a prototype for the renovated Granada, a Cinema ’N’ Draft-house franchise. Heidi Ferguson, another Greenland Hills board member, made the trip compliments of McKeague and Appleton.

Her verdict, which she shared with an informal group of Granada neighbors on January 21: “It was a movie theater: 400 people were there watching a movie. They weren’t talking. Some of them were eating and drinking. But they were all watching the movie.”

Was Smotzer convinced? No. Docs it matter? Not really. Now, it’s up to the city. The city position will be appealed by McKeague and Appleton at a March 10 hearing before the City’s Board of Adjustment. Until then the Granada is not a theater. Nor is it a bar or restaurant or anything, except a partially renovated vacant building.

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