El Corral and the Fields of St. Agnes

St. Agnes Academy has already begun constructing an athletic complex on the site of the former Gillman Auto dealership at the corner of Bellaire and Fondren in Sharpstown. The 18.7-acre property, which it bought last fall, will have 3 athletic fields, 2 softball diamonds, 8 tennis courts, plus weight rooms, conference rooms, and meeting rooms. But administrators of the all-girls private school aren’t too happy with a development planned across the street in PlazAmericas, the former Sharpstown Mall. Last Friday, the school filed suit to prevent a nightclub from opening in the mall’s former Finger Furniture store.


The lawsuit was filed against the bar’s owners, the city of Houston, and TABC. In January, the city granted the school a 1,000-ft. alcohol-free zone around its main campus at 9000 Bellaire. But the city hasn’t granted the same status to the new athletic campus, where the school plans to teach required P.E. courses. The city department that makes recommendations for alcohol-free zones considers the new site a vacant lot, according to the lawsuit. The nightclub, called El Corral, hasn’t received an alcohol permit yet, but an administrative law judge has recommended that the TABC grant it one. The PlazAmericas property line sits 291 ft. away from the athletic campus, according to the school’s measurements. That would place it within the 300-ft. school zone where alcohol sales are automatically prohibited, even though the nightclub itself is further away. According to a city official quoted in the lawsuit, the measurement to the property line of the owner — not of the lease space — is what governs.

Photo: Candace Garcia

16 Comment

  • So does that mean the Walgreens and Citgo opposite the St Agnes field will be alcohol free as well? Someone needs to inform the homeless panhandlers so they can move on (finally!).

  • Maybe the nightclub owners could sue the school for infringment of their rights to make money selling alcohol?
    And does anyone seriously think that a club would let in a bunch of girls at 3 in the afternoon wearing plaid skirts and white blouses? –only if it was “dress like Britney Spears” happy hour.

  • Not if the Walgreens and Citgo were there first.

  • I think it’s a part of a bigger picture where Sharpstown residents are fighting anything in the former Sharpstown mall and rundown apartments in the area. At some point some of the civic association members decided that Sharpstown should become like Ballaire and West U and not the dump that it currently is and always will be. They’re hugging and puffing but frankly have at least 30 more years before that’s even a remote possibility.

  • Why is Sharpstown a dump? Sure the apartments are but the housing stock is phenomenal. The neighborhood is safe and prices are rising. It has a prime location off of 59 less then 10 mins to galleria and less than 20 to downtown, a university, new development in china town, prototype 180, and the mahatma ghandi district. You can’t say that about Bellaire or West U.

    I for one am glad Scott Hochberg and the civic association is fighting it. The neighborhood is really getting its act together.

  • I think people in Sharpstown are entitled to give opinions on how their neighborhood redevelops – no matter how slowly that happens.

    After all, they live there, not me.

    I for one would love to see Sharpstown become better each year. It is a big area of town; positive improvements could be good for all of Houston.

    Common sense tells me lumping the whole (large) area together as one homogeneous slum isn’t quite accurate. I know there are parts that are fine and parts that deserve the reputation…

  • From the Public Records, check out this excerpt from the decision of State Office of Administrative Hearings Judge Lindy Hendricks, Docket No. 458-10-4266, on 5/19/2011:

    “The evidence presented on remand shows the Academy did not conduct a thorough research of alcohol permits during their search, or prior to negotiating and purchasing the tract. The mixed beverage application, the subject of this protest, had been filed since December 2009. Respondent had provided the requisite notice through newspaper publication, dated January 14 and 15, 2010. Meanwhile, the Academy was searching for land in a densely populated and highly trafficked area of town. Another location had already been rejected by the Academy because of traffic concerns. This tract met their budget and search requirements of 15 acres within a 5-mile radius of the main campus. In May 2010, the Academy began negotiating for the purchase of the tract. On September 8, 2010, the Academy purchased the tract with plans to build an outdoors sports complex. The evidence shows that while the Academy was looking for land, Respondent’s application had been pending. Before the Academy negotiated the purchase, this protest had been pending. Prior to the purchase of the property, the protest hearing had been held, pending a PFD. There was ample time and opportunity that, if there were any concerns about alcohol-related businesses, research and due diligence would have revealed this application. The evidence also shows 18 other alcohol-permitted businesses in the area. Moreover, the Arena Theater shares a property line with the tract and sells alcohol until 2 a.m. Therefore, the Academy either did not research alcohol-related businesses in the area, or did and determined there was no cause for concern.”

    Clearly St. Agnes was not happy with the Judge so decided to try another way.

  • This directly from the law suit filed by St. Agnes: “On March 11, 2011, Plaintiff applied for construction permits to build a complex on the 18.7 acres that included three sports fields, weight rooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms, two soft ball fields, and eight tennis courts. Those permits have been granted and construction has commenced.”

    NOTE 1: No classrooms.
    NOTE 2: Check out the artful drafting. The language implies that construction has commenced on all of the items listed in the permit, but does not say that. I suspect that the facts will show that construction has started on Phase 1, which just includes fields, and Phase 2 (although permitted) is unfunded and not about to begin any time soon.

  • The distance, as the crow flies, from the corner of the St. Agnes land to the door of the proposed El Corral is over 1,300 feet. The only reason St. Agnes can discuss a smaller number is that El Corral happens to be on a huge parcel of land. If a club opened across the street from El Corral but on a smaller parcel, distance would not be an issue.

  • “The distance, as the crow flies, from the corner of the St. Agnes land to the door of the proposed El Corral is over 1,300 feet.” That does not matter, the distance is measured from closest lot line to closest lot line. I have no dog in the fight, but I hope the school wins.

  • Mel: It may or may not be relevant from a legal standpoint, but from a common sense point of view it certainly is.

  • I don’t see how your distance measure is more “common sense” than the actual ordinance. If we start measuring front door to front door, there will be lots of buildings with “doors” in odd places, all hoping to game the system.

  • I’ve gotta go with the judge. The school did not do their research. Now, they are throwing their weight around.

    If we start letting schools/churches get their way “after the fact”, where will it stop?

  • If we start letting schools/churches get their way “after the fact”, where will it stop?

    It wouldn’t stop. We would have a horrible climate for fun like Waco.

  • Anyone know why St Agnes withdrew their lawsuit late yesterday??

  • I think they withdrew it because it was a bad law suit.