Oh Look! Now Somebody’s Trying To Get Rid of the Heights’ On-Site Alcohol Sales Rule, Too

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:


The group pushing for the rollback this time is calling itself the Houston Heights Beverage Restaurant Coalition — and it’s gone ahead and hired Texas Petition Strategies, the same Austin-based company that H-E-B tapped to help run last year’s pre-election petition drive. (Why change what works?) TPS’s Bryan Poff, speaking to Rebecca Elliott in this morning‘s Chronicle, doesn’t name any names as to who specifically might be backing the measure — but says that a couple of restaurants in the area during the last election run-up “came around and said, ‘Hey, we’re here too’. . . As soon as they saw how much support beer and wine got . . . that was all they needed.”

Photo of TABC regional headquarters in the Heights Medical Tower at 427 W. 20th St.: LoopNet

Heights Moist-Creep

22 Comment

  • The Heights should be renamed to Houston Drama Zone. Sheesh. If it’s not a walmart, it’s historic districts, if it’s not historic districts it’s where you can and can’t drink.
    Can’t anyone do anything in the heights without someone peering over their neighbors shoulder to tell them how to do it?

  • @toasty, well as long as the property values in the Heights remain high or keep climbing, it shows that there is demand there for people who will put up with what you call “drama”. And how much different are the historic district rules and restrictions from the restrictions that HOA’s put on homeowners in places like The Woodlands, Cinco Ranch, etc., that also have rising property values?

  • The partial repeal passed 64-36 in November. If a quarter of those voting “yes” in order to get a grocery store vote “no” this time around, it’ll fail.
    Since pretty much every new restaurant or bar is opening under a private club license anyway, the effect would probably be pretty small. My guess: the cost of funding a petition drive is less than, or at least comparable to, the extra administrative costs of operating under a private club license, so someone decided, “why not roll the dice?”

  • No way. The Heights is definitely being eyed by the club owners as Washington Ave 2.0. It is too easy to pretend to be a “restaurant” by putting a food truck on the same property as a bar a la 8 Row Flint. The private club permit is all we have to keep the bars away.

  • @Shady: In terms of what’s regulated, they are similar in many ways. In terms of the power of enforcement and the choice to the property owner, the difference is enormous and pretty much the whole point. HOA regs are private contracts, almost always created at the initial construction of the homes, where home owners choose to buy in, and subject to homeowner to penalties to the extent specified in the contract. Yes the contract is enforceable by public law, as is any legitimate contract. Historic district regulations, on the other hand, ARE public law, enforceable with penalties that are up to the discretion of the elected officials who enact them. A property owner can potentially be subject to new historic district regulations that they may not have wanted attached to their property (after all, the reasons such laws get enacted is because upset neighbors don’t like that other property owners don’t share their appreciation for historic structures). It is public law that specifically favors one set of subjective aesthetic preferences. That’s fine for HOA regs, but is pretty questionable for public law (nevermind how often it’s done all across the country).

  • Finally. The Heights is dry in name (and some people’s imaginary world) only. The private-club nonsense is silly at best.

  • I kind of think old school is onto something. Houston’s club scene rotates from place to place and the wash ave residents want the clubs out. These petitions cost big bucks and are way out of the price range of your typical small restaurant group. I’m guessing it’s a big mix use developer who wants bars on the ground floor of an apartment complex like they have at Kirby and westheimer. Having to sign up for a “private club” is too big a hassle if you want hundreds of bar goers coming and going between a few big bars every Friday and Saturday.

  • The big nightclubs chase relatively large blocks of functionally-obsolescent low-rent space, so the Heights has nothing much to worry about at this point. With or without these regs, they didn’t even have to worry very much about that when the Washington Avenue Corridor took off — which was a consequence of downtown getting too expensive. If there’s any area that ought to be wary, it’s 2nd Ward, especially along Navigation and Canal. But you won’t hear much opposition over there, seeing as how it’s a neighborhood whose voice doesn’t matter, much as it used to be over along Washington Ave. See the pattern?

  • Ack! The sky is falling. The booze swilling masses a.k.a.the zombie apocalypse, is about to be unleashed in the Heights. Next thing you know they will be tearing down bungalows, sub-dividing lots, and putting up six packs of town homes. Even worse, the Heights might end up being like….gasp, dare I say it… Shady Acres or even worse, the rest of Houston. Oh the inhumanity of it all. Blame Obama, no blame Hillary’s lost emails, no blame Trump and the Russians. Quick everyone, circle up the Volvos, minivans, Hybrids and Teslas and form a perimeter. We must not allow any changes to happen in the Heights that don’t involve gentrification..

    And the Big Developers / CoH response is: Bwaaa haw haw…. the Heights will be assimilated. You will be transformed into Houston, just like your neighbors to the West. Resistance is futile.

    Keep the Shady in Shady Acres, ya’ll.

  • I applaud anyone who understood the first sentence and continued reading.

  • Try to drive through Shady Acres on a Saturday night to see what the future holds. Cars parked everywhere, drunks pulling out in front of cars, people throwing up on sidewalks. It’s lovely.

  • Wouldn’t lifting the ban only help revitalize some of the very rundown portions of the dry area? Isn’t a local food and beverage establishment better then a used car lot with barbedwire fencing and a barking Doberman?

  • It’s about time. The “dry zone” was and is a farce with the private club exemption. But, I’m sure we will see plenty of nonsense in favor of keeping up the charade. Last time it was 7/11s on every corner and flooding. I suppose this time it’s going to be nightclubs on every corner. Sigh…

  • @shady, property values in the heights have more to do with location and schools than the restrictive covenants. I’m sure you’ve been in Houston long enough to know this, but property values in the heights were rising well before the more draconian historic districts were put into effect. And judging by how quickly locations directly surrounding the heights are taking off since the historic districts went into effect, you’ve gotta wonder if maybe the historic districts are making developers push locations just surrounding the heights in favor of the heights itself?
    overall, my point wasn’t about the historic districts though, like I said: Drama. There’s a point beyond caring about what your neighbor is doing with their property and trying to dictate their business. I’m sure there’s a lot of busy-bodies over there that appreciate it and enjoy it, but I’m very happy that I just read about it online and don’t have to experience it first hand.

  • next thing you know these anarchists are going to start a petition to overturn the longstanding heights ban on dancing.

  • The HEB location at 24th & Shepherd would be a tempting location for a club instead of a small HEB. The other HEB location at Washington & Waugh seems to be on track.

  • @OldSchool, Don’t need to be a restaurant to operate under a private club license. You just have to offer “meals” to member. Can be a vending machine with sandwiches and still qualify.
    @Commenter7, Petition drives cost $5-6 per signature on average. Since only about 1500 signatures are required, that puts it under $10k on the high end.

  • There is no way a company can stay profitable at 5 dollars a signature unless they can get voters in a huge area, like Houston-wide. 10K less minimum wage for the workers is not covering anyone’s office rent. I would imagine this effort will cost 100k minimum given the huge exposure and opposition and that it must be targeted to a relatively small, sophisticated group. Plus, it has to be done right and documented to survive a lawsuit.

  • @toasty, I agree with property values having to do with intown loaction and schools. My point was that if the historic districts were a deal breaker for many people, or , for that matter the area being dry was a deal breaker, prices would fall since demand would not be there for people who want to put up with what you termed the drama of living in the Heights. I also agree that adjacent areas have probably become more popular as some builders decamped to less restrictive neighborhoods nearby. And, yeah, the Heights proper does have a bit of a Berkeley feel to it these days.

  • 100% supported effort by HEB to repeal the law for grocery stores. 100% oppose this measure. I will vote no and be very vocal about it if it actually moves forward. The private-club rule works fine. It is a pain for the restaurants to get but that just encourages a better quality of establishment to use that route. Easier access to liqueur sales at restaurants in the Heights will offer no benefits to the area and will hopefully be opposed by my neighbors.

  • So our cash starved City will pay for another local election that will ultimately erode its tax base when people start voting with their feet. How many million dollar plus homes are selling in the Heights these days? Not any that are near corners with 11th, White Oak, 20th, 19th, Studewood, Heights or Yale.

  • By way of update: they have petitioners going around as of yesterday. I signed the petition last night.