By Michael Sudhalter
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s office has ruled to renew the beer license for La Villita Night Club, 829 W. 34thSt., despite challenges from State Rep. Jessica Farrar and Garden Oaks residents.
Beer licenses are renewable every two years in Texas, and they’re handled by the County Judge. A beer license allows an establishment to serve beer and wine on its premises.
In a county as large as Harris County, judges have the option of delegating those decisions to a “master.”
Master Bill Henderson, who presided over the protest hearing on Dec. 19, released his findings in renewing the license for La Villita, which has been open since 1994.
“The Master has reasonable grounds to believe that the place or manner in which the Applicant may conduct her business does not warrant a refusal of a permit based on the general welfare, health, peace, morals, safety and sense of decency of the people,” Henderson wrote in his decision.
In the decision, Henderson noted that the nightclub existed prior to The Bell Tower, 901 W. 34th.
Bell Tower owner Roger Igo was one of the more vocal protesters, saying that the club adjacent to his wedding and corporate event venue posed safety and security concerns.
Igo hired a private investigator who “documented what he believed to be activities related to prostitution and/or narcotics transactions,” but there were no records of complaints to the Houston Police Department.
HPD, nor the City of Houston, joined in to protest the license.
Henderson noted that TABC, which didn’t protest La Villita’s license, was unable to obtain any evidence of prostitution, which was alleged by the protesters.
Henderson said the club’s breaches of peace were reported to the HPD, as they should have been, but they weren’t reported to TABC, as required.
TABC issued warnings to the club for not reporting breaches of the peace.
Farrar said the Garden Oaks community must continue to monitor the situation, so they can keep the neighborhood safe.
“We have to continue to gather evidence,” Farrar said. “It’s important for the people in the community to step forward when they see things…I thought the evidence was very compelling. I think it’s terrible for the neighborhood. It makes the neighborhood unsafe.”