The fate of Houston bar Down the Street will be decided on April 27th.
Down the Street wanted to be a neighborhood bar. Now it finds itself clashing with some of its neighbors.
Down the Street's critics have called the police, fire marshal and health department repeatedly.
A Cottage Grove neighborhood bar is under fire. Some neighborhood residents clearly wish they didn’t live down the street from, well, Down the Street. The bar, known for its spacious patio and bingo nights, faces a hearing on April 27 before the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that could strip it of its liquor license and essentially shut it down.
It looks like happy hour won’t be quite so happy for the next few weeks. The exact complaints are somewhat murky, but calls have been made to the police department, health department and fire marshal.
This isn’t the first neighborhood-bar war in Houston. Although this Cottage Grove drama may have “Grinch-like smiles” and menacing men with chihuahuas, according to an as-yet unreleased letter from Down the Street manager Bobbie Everett that PaperCity’s been given, at least there’s no graffiti like there was in Bar Bleu’s infamous battle with the neighboring Robinhood condos.
Down the Street’s future will be determined in a hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) Houston regional office.
More than 275 Cottage residents have signed a petition in defense of the bar. There are roughly 5,000 total residents in Cottage Grove, according to Weichert Realtors’ statistics.
“With over 275 Cottage Grove residents who agree with us and see the bar as an amenity to the neighborhood, how is it possible that as few at 15 have such a voice that empowers their opinion more than that of the majority?” Everett writes in his letter.
“Let’s keep in mind that, although they claim to, these protestors don’t speak for everyone.”
Everett tells PaperCity that the bar has a number of neighborhood regulars that he knows by name, like Tommy and Donna Lanier who live two blocks away and go to Down the Street regularly for steak night.
The anti-bar contingent does not have to cite specific complaints. “One of the provisions allows you to say that they are an affront to the general welfare of the community. It’s a box they get to check,” Matt Welch, spokesperson for Down the Street, tells PaperCity.
Upset neighbors have made calls to the police department regarding noise, the health department concerning service dogs on the patio and the fire marshal for perceived capacity issues, Welch admits. There were no citations for any of the incidents, he adds.
“These people have really tasked city resources in responding to their complaints that are unfounded,” Welch says. He says that more than 60 calls in total were made to the police department. (PaperCity attempted to reach out to some of the neighbors against the bar, but has been unsuccessful.)
“Protestors are out there in the street taking pictures with their iPhones. Attempting to get that Gotcha! Moment. Which they haven’t,” Welch says.
“Another protestor walks his Chihuahua on the corner of Larkin at the stop sign and is very quick to snap photos of DTS and to protest our establishment,” Everett writes in his letter. “However, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and we were open and serving food every day, he had no hesitation in stopping in the bar for a drink with his friends and neighbors.
“Suffice it to say many of the protestors have enjoyed Down the Street’s hospitality over the years. Irony of all ironies.”
One belligerent neighborhood resident took it too far, Everett writes. The individual screamed at a bartender about how he plans to shut down the bar whatever it takes.
Welch says that Down the Street called the police in response to the outburst, and that their lawyers have written a cease-and-desist letter.
Cottage Grove’s Version of Cheers?
The bar’s supporters have shared letters of praise and support on Facebook, with one reading, “To call Down the Street a bar is an understatement. It’s our neighborhood hangout — our version of Cheers.”
There are now more than 5,000 signatures on a petition to save the bar. “The petition is a demonstration of the grassroots support of Down the Street. It is hopefully a wake up call to councilwoman Cohen that the voices of the bar supporters are just as important as the handful of protestors,” Welch says.
Councilwoman Ellen Cohen is also the Cottage Grove mayor pro tem. Cohen could not directly vote or influence the proceedings, but she could write a letter for or against the bar that would be entered into the record.
“We did engage in a mediation effort. We were hopeful for a positive outcome. We left realizing that the other side wasn’t interested in a good faith outcome,” Welch says.
Everett claims that Down the Street “enhances neighborhood security by hiring off-duty police officers on weekends, abides by all city health code ordinances, complies with noise code requirements and has never been cited for any violations.” He also says the bar supports Cottage Grove by helping local charities including Houston Food Bank and Avon 39 Walk to End breast Cancer.
April 27th will dictate what happens next, whether the liquor license is renewed or if this bar fight will go to court.