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Council shuts down bar at Smokin’ Aces

MISSION — Smokin’ Aces, a bar located on the city’s east side known for bringing musical acts to the Rio Grande Valley since 2007, is no longer allowed to sell alcohol after city leaders say the owners didn’t do enough to provide adequate security.

The decision to not renew the bar’s conditional use permit, comes after a 90-day period given to the owners to address safety concerns from police and nearby residents.

The bar is located west of Taylor Road on the south side of Business 83. Last year, when the conditional use permit came up for renewal, the council was presented with a list of incidences where police were called. According to authorities, police visited the bar 40 times in 2011, but found that only 19 complaints were alcohol related.

Three months ago after reviewing the situation, the council voted to give the bar a three-month extension in order to get more security during weekend hours. Continuation after that time was dependent upon there being no more police reports.

Since then, an assault and public intoxication incident involving a female who was struck in the head by another female was reported on Dec. 18, 2011. Then nearly 10 days later, an assault between two women was reported by police. Med-Care was called both times for assistance.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended an additional three-month conditional use permit because the December incidents happened before security was in place.

On Monday, the council was also presented with a petition with 46 signatures that wanted the bar shut down.

Mario Gonzalez, the manager of Shary Town Homes located next door, said the people who lived there were tired of the noise and the problems that took place on weekends. They did not want to wait any longer before the bar was shut down.

Planning Director Sergio Zavala said Mariachuchena’s Restaurant received a three-month conditional use permit (CUP) after being caught serving alcohol after hours. Kave Bar had received a six-month CUP following a shooting in the parking lot after hours.

Mission’s Interim Police Chief Martin Garza said the two incidents at Smokin’ Aces were rather minor in comparison to other safety issues at local bars.

Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas questioned why the P&Z and police chief were considering another three-month extension when the bar was told there were to be no more incidents.

“These people are not facing reality,” said Salinas. “Do we have to wait until someone is killed before we take action?  We need to close them down now.”

Zavala and Garza said there had been no incidents since the bar added the extra security that the council requested. There were now two bouncers inside and two security guards outside on weekends.

Owners Michael and David Aguilar said the mayor was being unfair because in most cases they had called the police to help keep things from getting out of control. They said they were being unjustly punished for trying to keep things from getting out of hand.

“We have a nice bar,” said David Aguilar. “Policemen come in to relax after hours along with department of public safety officers. We also get some of the Sharyland Independent School District administrators because we are so close to the school. It is not a dangerous bar; we work hard to see that our patrons are safe. But you cannot always control who comes into your bar. Sometimes things happen. The last incident happened when we were having a concert with 300 people there.”

Salinas questioned whether the building was big enough to have a concert with 300 people present.

Mission Fire Chief Ricardo Saldaña said that without checking his files he did not know how big the interior of the building was and whether it was able to accommodate 300 people. Saldaña later told the Progress Times that if there were no tables during the concert, the building might have been large enough because the requirements for tables and chairs were different than for having just chairs.

When asked if the concert should have had additional security, Saldaña said it was possible that if the size of the crowd was getting close to maximum capacity, there should have been additional personnel at the door to make sure it was not exceeded.

“If someone left, someone else could come in,” he explained.

Mayor Pro-Tem Leo Olivarez supported the owners.

“You don’t always know who your patrons are,” Olivarez said. “There are other places in the city worse than this one.”

He made reference to another bar where a shooting had occurred and questioned why it had not been shut down.

Councilwoman Norie Garza agreed. She said all bars should be dealt with in an equitable manner. For five years there had been no violent crimes such as stabbings or shootings. The police calls had been minor incidents.

Salinas said the way to keep big incidents from happening was to close it down before the big things started happening.

The permit was denied by a vote of three-to-two with the mayor, Ruben Plata and Maria Elena Ramirez opposing the CUP and Olivarez and Garza supporting it.

Smokin’ Aces may continue to serve food but without the CUP, no alcohol can be served.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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