Drunken drivers, empty beer bottles, random acts of vandalism and the occasional gunfight are typical Saturday night happenings for some residents of Lakewood Hills. All the rowdiness stems from a nearby nightclub, Far West, which is adjacent to the White Rock YMCA.
Neighbors have been fighting Far West at least since 2008, when they challenged a 99-year specific use permit the owners had obtained to operate a dance hall there. They appealed to city hall to change the permit to five years, and it expires in 2013.
But that’s not soon enough for neighbors who are tired of the weekly pandemonium. So this time, they are contesting the club’s liquor license. The license is up for renewal in December, and two lawyers have volunteered their time to file a protest with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Dolores and Daniel Wolfe of East Dallas filed the letter, pro bono, on behalf of 12 neighborhood associations and crime watch groups, plus the Ferguson Road Initiative.
In March, they sent a 14-page letter detailing violence at the club, including a Jan. 18 fight that led to a shooting and a police chase. Between January and April of this year, police filed seven aggravated assault complaints at the club. And there were two cases of “accidental injury”, when people were cut by flying beer bottles.
“A mega nightclub does not belong in the middle of residential neighborhoods on the primary street families living east of the lake use to get around White Rock Lake,” the letter states.
Kim Ratcliff, who lives on Casa Loma, says traffic on Garland and East Grand is heavy most of the time. But on Saturday nights, it can become utter gridlock because of the club. She’s often awoken at 2 or 3 a.m. by “what sounds like racing on East Grand.” And then there are the drunken people, laughing, talking loudly and slamming car doors in the middle of the night.
When there’s a special event at the club, parked cars are stacked throughout the neighborhood. She’s caught men urinating on her lawn, and picking up beer bottles and cans is a typical Sunday-morning activity for most neighbors, she says.
Most frightening is the gunfire, Ratcliff says. “I’m all for having a good time,” she says. “It’s just unfortunate how close such a large club is to residences.”
City councilman Angela Hunt says she recently asked the fire marshal to check up on the club. The club’s legal capacity is 2,500, and the doorman told the fire department some 2,400 were inside. The fire marshal counted more than 3,000 people leaving. But a $1,000 fine for violating fire code is just part of doing business for some clubs, Hunt says.
“Yeah, we can keep sending the fire marshal and babysitting them and giving them fines,” she says. “But we need a more substantial solution than that.”
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