WHEN THE THOMAS AVENUE Beverage Company (TABC) opened in June, the uptown tavern became an instant hotspot for the up-and-coming, under-35, late-night set. But Patricia Meadows, founder and outgoing president of Friends of State-Thomas, saw the bar’s success as a setback to her efforts. From the window of her house and office on nearby State street, the Meadows Foundation heiress saw an influx of cars making parking difficult for residents. Beer bottles littered the sidewalks each morning, and angry residents reported more than one instance of public urination.
State-Thomas advocates, who have spent almost 10 years transforming the area into Dallas’ gem of urban living, now fear that TABC has brought their progress to an alarming halt. The $300,000 townhomes across the street from the bar have become unsellable, and developers are nervous. “This is a fragile time for the neighborhood,” says Meadows.
TABC’s owners, for their part, accuse Meadows of flexing political muscle to bully them out of the area. First came unannounced no-parking signs, with tow trucks hovering. Then came numerous inspections (which the bar passed), followed by re-inspections and then re-re-inspections. “There was a three-week period where we had three or four agen-cies a day visiting us,”says co-owner Joel Lebovitz. Even Police Chief Ben Click showed up-to check out a parking problem. “We’re zoned right, we’re up to code, and they still keep coming back,” Lebovitz says. The badgering has prompted TABC to file a $1 lawsuit against the city for harassment. “We just want it to stop,” says Lebovitz, who has since hired off-duty police to patrol outside and directed his managers to pick up street trash each night after closing.
Meadows insists she has done nothing but file complaints, though she does admit to studying up on the building codes by which bars have to abide. She recently invited the owners to a Friends of State-Thomas meeting so they could hear residents’ concerns. Only one person, a man who lives in one of the devalued town-homes, confronted the bar owners, He threatened lawsuits against TABC, the city, and the developer, who he claims promised that a bar couldn’t open up across from his property.
Ironically, State-Thomas developers could have kept the bar out of the neighborhood by leasing the building themselves for a mere $ 1,700 a month. But now the factions are stuck with each other. Those who welcome the areas progress hope the feuding neighbors will bury the hatchet-and break out the lawn darts.