Hearings Set For Booze Sales Near Church, St. Mark’s

Public service can be a thankless job, especially when you have to sift through bureaucratic minutiae such as items 35 and 36 on the agenda for next Wednesday’s Dallas City Council meeting: a pair of public hearings regarding variances to the rules about alcohol sales near churches and schools.

The first hearing is about the sale of mixed beverages at the Romano’s Macaroni Grill on Northwest Highway. The restaurant is technically prohibited from selling them because it sits within 300 feet of Northwest Bible Church. But if you’re thinking, “Wait, I’ve been served a mixed drink there before,” you’re right; the restaurant was granted a variance five years ago. The owners have to be granted another one only because they’re finally getting a “wet” permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as opposed to a “private club” permit.

In making his client’s case for the variance, attorney Marcus Schwartz points out that the only part of Northwest Bible Church that is within 300 feet of Macaroni Grill is the door to the church’s gym. The door to the sanctuary, he writes, is actually 600 feet away.

My client is of the position that just as Texas courts have held that a school stadium on school property does not convert a stadium into a school for purposes of TABC measurements … a church gymnasium on church property does not convert said gymnasium into a church for alcohol measurement distances.

Distances are also clarified by the attorney for Central Market, which already sells beer and wine at Preston and Royal for off-site consumption. But the store’s management wants people to be able to drink in its cafe and cooking classrooms. The problem is, Central Market technically sits within 300 feet of St. Mark’s School of Texas.

But wait, says attorney Myron Dornic; that 300 feet is a misleading figure on both ends. While the St. Mark’s campus is within 300 feet of the 8-acre Preston Oaks Shopping Center, Central Market is on the north side of said shopping center. “The store entrance is actually located at a walking distance of over 1,477 feet along the nearest public sidewalks to closest corner of the school campus,” he writes.

But that’s not my favorite part of Dornic’s argument. This is:

The portion of the campus that is within 300 feet of the shopping center tract is a very small edge of the school property located at that corner of the campus that is farthest from any school building entrance or active student area. In fact, it appears to include only an area that is outside the perimeter fence of the campus.

So, if you want to weigh in on either of these variances, the public hearings will start at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

By Dan Koller Jan. 3, 2013 | 10:18 am | 7 Comments | Comments RSS
  • It’s cold outside

    Dan, just wondering…how do these “type of” variances apply in HP….with Bradfield? etc.

  • A. B.

    The entrance to the Northwest Bible Church gym is on the north side of that campus and directly across from the entrance to the sanctuary so this makes no sense. What makes even less sense is why serving alcohol within 300′ of a church is a problem. Schools I get (kind of); churches I don’t

    Re St. Mark’s–sounds like the portion of campus he is referring to is the perfect spot to hide out and sneak a few brewskis between classes.

  • Z

    Pretty sure I’ve been served alcohol AT church, hundreds of times. By clergy, and on Sundays, no less. They serve it to minors, too. Usually with a little wafer, which isn’t especially filling, so I often bring my own sandwich.

  • Edward

    I agree with A.B. The entire thing is a total crock. What having a cocktail on a Thursday evening at Macaroni Grill has to do with some people going to church blocks away on a Sunday escapes me.

    Whether or not a school or “church” (why are churches so special anyways – at least when I buy a drink the city and state make some money, while they have to spend money on non-tax paying “churches”) is 20 ft or 299 ft or 1000+ ft shouldn’t have diddly-squat to do with whether someone can have some wine with their food.

  • XT

    Never thought about it, but you’re right, I’m not sure why a proximity to a church has any legal standing. Separation of church and state?

  • It’s cold outside

    Dan…can you please try to answer my question above.

    Bradfield Elementary is very close (maybe 20 yards) to liquor being sold from various sources located within the HP Village Shopping Center. What is the variance, if any? And who would approve this ok to sell liquor so close to an elementary school? And isn’t there a Pre-School at the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Douglas?

    Your article made me realize how this is even possible, given the conservative town of Highland Park? Do the elementary children at Bradfield and nearby alcohol sales mix?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe HP’s town attorney crafted a past town ordinance about something relating alcohol consumption and property owners? I’m not sure, help me with this. Thanks.

  • Parkie

    @It’s Cold, you have some good questions. Maybe you could call the town of HP tomorrow and find out the answers yourself. It should be public information.

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