Fort Worth school district sues over eatery's liquor license

FORT WORTH -- The school district will file a "friendly suit" against Fort Worth and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, asking for an injunction involving a liquor license granted to a new restaurant across West Magnolia Avenue from the district's new all-girls school, trustees decided Tuesday night.

School officials oppose the license granted last week to David Shaw, who plans to launch Jack Tanner's Patio Grill in the 1000 block of West Magnolia.

When Shaw started planning the venture, he told trustees, he understood that school property across the street was to be the district's Adult Education Center.

But this school year, administrators decided to convert the space into a school for the new Young Women's Leadership Academy. The academy is scheduled to open in August with about 135 sixth- and seventh-graders with plans to add a grade each year through 12th.

Shaw's venture will incorporate part of the space that his wife's restaurant, Scampi's Mediterranean Grill, occupied at 1057 W. Magnolia Ave., plus space next door. He was nearing final approval for a mixed-beverage permit in April when the school district tried to protest his request with the beverage commission.

Superintendent Melody Johnson told trustees that officials are concerned that the establishment will sell more alcohol than food after school hours.

"We want to be good neighbors, but if it's a bar, we have a problem," she said, adding that the district is willing to work on a compromise.

Shaw said after the meeting that the school's attorneys had proposed a compromise on when he would sell alcohol, such as not during school hours or at lunch. But he said he declined because that would hurt his business.

Shaw told trustees that he has spent the last three decades running respectable family-oriented restaurants. The grill will not be just a bar, he said. "I just want to be a good neighbor to the school," he said. "But I think the school is in the wrong place."

West Magnolia is a lively street with several restaurants -- some of which serve alcohol now -- and businesses that often have festive events outside. Shaw said he worries about bus and other traffic to and from the school.

"That's more of a nuisance than what we're going to be there," he said.

West Magnolia runs through the Medical District and borders the Fairmount neighborhood.

Shaw's license was issued Thursday, said Carolyn Beck, a beverage commission spokeswoman.

"It's very difficult to get a permit back [so soon] after it's been issued," she said.

When a permit is up for renewal two years after being issued, a judge will hear protests and make a ruling, she said.

Shaw said city officials had briefly considered stopping his application process because of the school property nearby but then allowed him to proceed because they, too, understood that the site would be for adults. City officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Trustees voted to move forward with the suit without public discussion. Juan Rangel, who represents the West Magnolia area, and Carlos Vasquez voted against the suit.

Rangel said the district has yet to win a protest over such a permit. "That's another legal expense," he said. "I want those fees to be spent in the classroom."

EVA-MARIE AYALA, 817-390-7700