11/08/17 10:45am

HEIGHTS ALCOHOL ‘DRY ZONE’ NOW MOSTLY WASHED AWAY With 2 successful ballot initiatives in successive years, the rules that for more than 100 years restricted alcohol sales within the portion of the Houston Heights that was once a separate city (outlined in the map shown here) have now been whittled down to a single prohibition: Grocery and convenience stores in the area are still not allowed to sell liquor. In yesterday’s election, 1,479 Heights residents voted in favor of Proposition F, allowing the sales of mixed drinks in the district — in effect ending the quirky gotta-join-a-club loophole run through by alcohol-serving restaurants. 960 voted against. [Harris Votes; previously on Swamplot] Map of Heights dry zone: HoustonHeights.org

06/09/17 12:30pm

All those folks who were wringing hands about last year’s electoral nixing of the rule against carry-out alcohol sales in the Houston Heights possibly opening the door to a future rollback of the area’s other alcohol restrictions — well, you may find yourselves feeling kinda vindicated right about now: the petition process has just kicked off to once again crank up the ol’ special election machinery, this time on the question of alcohol sales for on-site consumption in the Heights Dry-ish Zone. The goal: no more private-club workarounds for the area’s bars and restaurants — just regular drink sales.

What do we know so far about the cast of characters starring in this new season of Heights electoral intrigue? At least one familiar name has entered the picture, so far:

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Heights Moist-Creep
11/07/16 2:45pm

Proposed Heights H-E-B with 10 ft. building setbackProposed Heights H-E-B with 25 ft. building setback

The final go-ahead on H-E-B’s planned store on the former N. Shepherd Fiesta spot at W. 24th St. is still purportedly dependent on whether or not the Heights-Dry-Zone-moistening ballot initiative it’s been backing passes tomorrow — but 2 designs for the proposed structure (depicted above) are already queued up on the agenda for November’s first city planning commission meeting next week. A variance request submitted by the company asks for permission to put the proposed 2-story parking-garage-and-store combo just 10 feet back from the property line on the N. Shepherd side of the block (as shown at the top), instead of the 25 feet that would normally be required (as depicted on the 2nd rendering).

What difference would that make? Documentation submitted with the request says that if the parking structure can’t stick out closer to the street, the company will add an extra row of surface parking spaces between the edge of the garage and the curb, which will cut into space otherwise planned for benches and landscaping. From the looks of the included drawings above, the developers will also ditch a planned bike rack, as well as something labeled as an Art Wall — below are the side-view perspectives on the proposed scene, with those 2 rendered ladies in white and blue stuck roughly in the same spot each time as a reference:

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Hedging Against Setbacks
10/10/16 10:45am

H-E-B WILL DOUBLE DOWN ON A HEIGHTS DRY ZONE STORE OR NOT BUILD AT ALL 2-story H-E-B proposed at 5106 Bissonnet St., Bellaire, TX 77401The H-E-B proposed for the former N. Shepherd Fiesta site at W. 24th St. would be another 2-story store, Houston H-E-B president Scott McClelland tells Jack Witthaus. The grocery chain is backing the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition’s dry-zone dampening campaign and showed up for the press conference last week on the now-cleared 4-ish-acre site. The company has already been planning its first double-decker Houston location (rendered above) on the 3-acre site of the existing H-E-B in Bellaire; plans for that development show about 75,000 sq. ft. of store stacked on top of an all-parking ground level. McClelland tells Witthaus that the proposed H-E-B in the dry area of the Heights would be about 80,000 sq. ft. and come with a 2018 expected completion date, but that H-E-B won’t build in the zone at all if the upcoming election doesn’t go their way. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed 2-story H-E-B in Bellaire: Terra Associates

10/06/16 5:30pm

H-E-B Heights Proposed Dry Zone Site

The marker above (showing a now-officially-proposed H-E-B on N. Shepherd Dr.) is a little out of place, if it’s aiming for the former Fiesta site on N. Shepherd between W. 23rd and W. 24th streets as H-E-B says — but you get the idea, and the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition held a press conference on the site this morning to drive the point home. The red line on the map also only roughly shows the boundary of the nominal dry zone that the H-E-B-backed PAC is hoping to get loosened up a bit via that upcoming local election on take-home beer and wine sales. But you can find out for sure whether or not you’re close enough to be eligible to vote in the Houston-Heights-only election by checking your ballot at at HarrisVotes.com — and also check whether or not you’re registered, which you’ve only got until Tuesday to do. (If printing out a form is too much of a hassle, maybe try your nearest taco truck.)

Map of proposed H-E-B in Heights Dry Zone: Houston Heights Beverage Coalition

Campaign Fiesta
08/22/16 1:30pm

Buffalo Fred's Ice House, 2708 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Buffalo Fred's Ice House, 2708 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008After a month or so on the market at $3.75 million, the asking price on Buffalo Fred’s Ice House has dropped by half a million as of early last week. The 37,500 sq.ft. property, positioned right across the northern boundary of the potentially moistening Heights dry zone at 2708 N. Shepherd Dr., sits a few blocks north of the ongoing culinary redevelopment zone near the recent Fiesta Mart breakup. The HAR sales listing notes that leasing the space is an option (and a matching LoopNet leasing listing has been added for the property in the last few weeks).

The listing claims the early-1980s ice house is now running on a month-to-month lease; the bar building is up for grabs along with the 2,100-sq.-ft. building formerly occupied by Speedy Cycle Lube (on the right hand side, both above and below):

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Room to Roam in Houston Heights
08/11/16 4:00pm

YES, THE HEIGHTS DRY ZONE PETITIONERS REALLY DID COLLECT ENOUGH SIGNATURES FOR A VOTE TABC regional headquarters in Heights Medical Tower, 427 West 20th Street, Suite 600 Houston Heights, Houston, 77008Tuesday’s city council meeting gave the formal OK to the H-E-B-backed Heights Beverage Coalition’s petition for a local option election on whether or not to allow the take-home sale of beer and wine within the boundaries of the nominal dry zone formerly known as City of Houston Heights. The number of signatures required was set as 35 percent of the voters in the affected zone who voted in the 2014 governor’s election — which county clerk Stan Stanart pegged at 1,511 in early July. The city secretary announced the petitioner’s total as 1,759 valid signatures; Tuesday’s vote to approve those findings means the measure will be on the ballot in November. [City of Houston, Houston Public Media; previously on SwamplotPhoto of TABC regional headquarters at 427 W. 20th St.: LoopNet

06/08/16 12:45pm

HEIGHTS DRY ZONE SIGNATURE GATHERERS RETURN FROM THE HUNT VICTORIOUS TABC regional headquarters in Heights Medical Tower, 427 West 20th Street, Suite 600 Houston Heights, Houston, 77008Reports comes from both NextDoor and The Heights Life blog that the H-E-B-backed Houston Heights Beverage Coalition has collected the signatures it needs to trigger a local election over legalizing carry-out beer and wine sales in the Heights dry zone. The petition was officially issued in mid-May, at which point the 60-day collection clock started ticking; the group claimed they needed 1,500 signatures to meet the required threshold of 35 percent of the population living in the zone. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of TABC regional headquarters at 427 W. 20th St.: LoopNet

06/06/16 10:30am

Former Fiesta Mart, 2300 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Fiesta at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008The glowing parrot and red neon lettering previously decorating the front of the former Fiesta Mart at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr. have been traded out for a construction fence and a few streamers of festive caution tape. A pre-demo permit to disconnect the 1965 building’s plumbing was issued near the end of May, and a reader snapped the top photo of the site during a break in Friday’s rain.

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Cleanup on 23rd
05/20/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LAYING OUT STRATEGIC ANGLES ON THE NEXT HEIGHTS BOOZE BATTLE Strategists “. . . Flooding? Really? There are no tracts of land any grocer could realistically acquire that are not already paved over for commercial spots. Nobody is going to open a liquor store in the middle of a residential section where there will be no traffic — there’s plenty of storefront space near by. The proposed change won’t impact bars and restaurants. . . . [The backers] are advocating for a policy change with respect to a policy that impacts their business. How else would you propose they do it other than hiring a law firm and PR firm to help them navigate the rather obscure laws that govern this thing?” [Heightsresident, commenting on H-E-B Would Like To Plant a Store in a Wetter Heights Dry ZoneIllustration: Lulu

05/18/16 3:45pm

H-E-B Bellaire Market, 5130 Cedar St., Bellaire, Texas

The semi-shrouded Houston Heights Beverage Coalition released a statement today filling in some details on the group’s plan to legalize take-home beer and wine sales in the Heights’ dry zone. The initiative was floated quietly on Cinco de Mayo by way of 109-word newspaper legal notice; the group’s longer press release clarifies that it will try to collect around 1,500 signatures in 60 days to call a special election for residents of the no-longer-a-city of Houston Heights. That election wouldn’t change the zone’s ban on liquor sales (or the need for a private-club-workaround for folks intent on selling it anyway), but would allow grocery stores to get in on the alcoholic action.

Coalition chair Steve Reilley tells the Houston Press‘s Phaedra Cook that H-E-B supports the measure — adding that the chain is probably going to move into the area if the change passes. Reilley also says that other grocery chains are involved with the coalition, but doesn’t tell Cook which ones.

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Taking Names
05/12/16 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: EXCAVATING ELECTION PROCEDURES IN THE LOST CITY OF HOUSTON HEIGHTS Map of Heights Dry Area“OK, here’s where things get complicated. The current Alcoholic Beverage Code and Texas election law only provide for the possibility of holding a local option election in a county, municipality or JP precinct. It is therefore not clear that the application for a petition can be accepted as written, since the ‘area formerly known as the city of Houston Heights’ is none of those things. To complicate matters further, if the application were re-submitted as covering Harris County Precinct 1 (which covers the entirety of the dry area), it may still not resolve the matter. Current law essentially says that, for the purposes of local option elections, the vote of a justice precinct doesn’t prevail over the vote of a city, independent of date of election. So the 1918 prohibition election would trump the 2016 local option election. There’s a reasonable reading of this that indicates the only way to allow alcohol sales in the dry Heights is a local option election for the entire city of Houston. Since petitions require a number of signatures exceeding 25 percent of the votes cast in the last general election, the petitioners would need many more signatures than there are actual residents of the affected area. Good luck with that.” [Angostura, commenting on Somebody’s Trying to Legalize Beer and Wine Sales in the Heights Dry Zone] Map of Heights Dry Zone: HoustonHeights.org

05/11/16 3:30pm

TABC regional headquarters in Heights Medical Tower, 427 West 20th Street, Suite 600 Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A group called the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition PAC is hoping to bring about a vote on allowing beer and wine sales in the technically dry section of the Houston Heights. The group published a notice on May 5th announcing an application to the city to start collecting the petition signatures required to get the measure on a local option ballot.

Here’s the text of the required public notice:

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Watering Down the Dry Laws
03/17/16 3:00pm

H-E-B SCOPING OUT ITS OPTIONS IN THE HEIGHTS H-E-B Bellaire Market, 5130 Cedar St., Bellaire, TexasIn response to questions about the possibility of building an H-E-B near the corner of Studemont St. and Washington Ave, H-E-B public affairs director Cyndy Garza-Roberts tells Swamplot that no contracts have been signed, and that the grocery store chain is talking to area developers that have “several tracts of land” in and around the Heights. Garza-Roberts told the Leader in 2015 that the Heights dry zone makes it hard to find suitable store locations, which also need to be at least 6 acres; the company is also eyeing the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of H-E-B at 5130 Cedar St.: Wayne A.