In an ever-changing world, where you can never be sure of what will happen tomorrow, isn’t it comforting and reassuring to know that, despite the slings and arrows hurled over the past several years by our neighbors, the City of Dallas and the Texas Legislature, Lake Highlands still has a neighborhood strip joint?
Yes, I can imagine Lake Highlands families around their dinner tables every night, giving thanks for their meal, their health and for the continued operation of the Gold Club at Miller and Plano. The only thing sillier than still having to tolerate a strip joint in our neighborhood is the path that led us to the current situation.
Long ago, but still in Lake Highlands, the Gold Club had a predecessor venue at West Lawther and Northwest Highway called “PT’s”, which, I’m fairly certain, stood for “Pretty Tasteless”. During its tenure at that location, not only were Lake Highlands families bursting with pride about the Wildcat football team, but we also had the dubious distinction of having a strip joint at our western entrance to welcome visitors. Now, there’s a chamber of commerce ad!
Over the years, because PT’s actually operated in violation of a city ordinance prohibiting such businesses from being within a certain distance of parks, residential neighborhoods and people just generally trying to avoid the less-inspiring features of humanity, PT’s had to apply for and obtain an annual “exemption” from the ordinance.
By asserting that it was not adversely affecting property values or otherwise causing trouble (and, by the way, generating welcome revenue for the city), PT’s routinely was awarded its annual exemption and continued its contribution to the cultural development of our community.
Finally, however, ongoing litigation to fully enforce the city ordinance forced PT’s to close its doors on West Lawther in 2003, and Lake Highlands was at last rid of an embarrassing exception to its family-friendly reputation — or so it seemed.
Almost as soon as the last lap was danced on at PT’s, a brand-new, bigger, more opulent successor called “PT’s — The Gold Club” opened its doors for business on the east side of Lake Highlands at Plano and Miller. Understandably, the businesses in the area, as well as the countless Lake Highlands families that live nearby and drive up and down Plano Road every day, were not happy. Neighbors organized almost immediately, and initiated a petition drive.
As it turned out, this new location — although technically in compliance with the city ordinance — was in a “dry” area, meaning the Gold Club would have to apply for a “private-club” liquor license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in Austin. So neighbors decided to sign a petition opposing the Gold Club’s application for a liquor license.
Incredibly, the community collected 3,000 signatures on the petition and presented them to the TABC. Not only was the TABC unaccustomed to receiving this kind of objection from a community; this was, by far, the largest expression of disapproval it had ever seen.
Since the TABC’s decision was discretionary, community leaders opposed to the Gold Club still felt like they needed to pursue other strategies, just in case the TABC was impressed, but not persuaded. The community leaders contacted me, in my freshman term as state representative, to see if emergency legislation could be introduced to help address the situation.
That was the year the Legislature was setting records for being in session because folks kept running off to Ardmore and Albuquerque (and maybe to the Gold Club). So, during one of those special sessions, I introduced an amendment to another bill and received full cooperation from State Sen. John Carona (as the Senate sponsor), House Speaker Craddick, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Gov. Perry, and passed a law that, very simply, prohibited any sexually-oriented business — SOB — from being able to sell alcohol in a dry area.
The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2004. Presumably, a strip joint that is unable to sell alcohol is not as attractive an enterprise. The strip-joint fraternity apparently agreed and immediately filed suit, claiming that the law was unconstitutional.
And that was just the beginning …