By Maggie Prosser and Isabella Volmert
A shooting last weekend on Greenville Avenue renewed safety concerns and reupped calls to shutter two bars, which community leaders say are nuisances and linked to recent crimes.
Residents of the Old East Dallas entertainment district say the usual partying, loud music and loitering at OT Tavern and Bar 3606 — two bars that share a building in the 3600 block of Greenville Avenue near Mockingbird Lane — has escalated to gun violence, leading to restless nights and anxiety for neighbors.
The city of Dallas alleges that at least seven crimes, aside from Sunday’s shooting, have been connected to the properties since 2018, including a March murder, assaults and criminal mischief.
The bars, however, say they don’t condone the violence and are working with city officials to curtail crime.
The community is “fed up. They’ve had enough. There are people who have already started moving out,” said Darren Dattalo of the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association, who has lived in the area since 1999.
He added that neighbors “are all acutely aware of the shootings that have been going on because they hear the gunfire. They just, I think, are baffled because we haven’t dealt with this sooner.”
Neighbor Sean Brockette, 51, said he saw about 10 police cars, two fire trucks and two ambulances outside OT Tavern early Sunday.
About 1 that morning, police allege, a disturbance inside the bar led to gunfire that wounded two women. Their injuries weren’t life-threatening, police said, and a 23-year-old was arrested in the shooting.
Weekends have become paralyzing for Brockette, a combat veteran who lives just behind Greenville Avenue on Longview Street.
“I’m very familiar with what gunfire sounds like and soon after we moved here, it was pretty prevalent,” Brockette said. “When that happens, I’ll get triggered and I won’t sleep for two or three days. Even now, Friday, Saturday and Sunday is kind of just an anxious time.”
A city attorney wrote in an April letter to the property owners that at least seven crimes were linked to OT Tavern and Bar 3606, including the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Cameron Ray in March. Other crimes included two aggravated assaults, a sexual assault, two criminal mischiefs and one charge related to discharging a firearm.
Ray, who was with a group of friends, was shot in the early morning hours of March 18. Surveillance footage showed Ray’s group and another group of people fighting about 1:45 a.m. and soon after, a black SUV drove past and fired shots.
Two men — Tivione English, 21, and Aries Jones, 29, both of Baton Rouge, La. — face murder charges in the slaying.
Cowboys cornerback Kelvin Joseph was interviewed by police and was reportedly a passenger in the suspects’ SUV but did not shoot Ray, his lawyer has said. Joseph has not been arrested in the slaying.
After Ray’s death, the city of Dallas threatened legal action against OT Tavern and Bar 3606. An assistant city attorney wrote in April that the properties have been the location of crimes, and city officials indicated at the time that they were prepared to file a lawsuit if the businesses failed to “abate the crime.”
Council member Paul Ridley, whose district includes Greenville Avenue, said this week that the city attorney’s office plans to file suit against the properties in the “very near future.” Ridley said the objective of the lawsuit would be to shut down the businesses.
City attorney Chris Caso and a spokeswoman for the city said they could not comment on pending litigation. No record of a lawsuit could be found in court records.
“I know some people in the neighborhood would like us to just shut it down — send the police over there and close the doors, but that’s not feasible,” Ridley said. “We have to follow the legal procedures and that’s what we’re doing very aggressively.”
In a statement, Bar 3606 said it does “not condone any sort of violence.” The bar said it implemented new policies recommended by the city, including increased security, as well as off-duty police officers, and bag and weapons checks.
“We have been addressing these issues with our councilman, city attorneys and our landlord (and their counsel), to try to make sure everyone is thinking about the issues and are not passing on misinformation about Bar 3606,” owner Rajen Melwani said in an email.
Bar 3606 said it is cooperating with Dallas police in the investigation of Ray’s death, as well as abiding by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations and complying with city code.
“I have been doing everything I can as a responsible human being and neighborhood business owner, to make sure our patrons along with the neighbors are kept safe,” Melwani said.
OT Tavern could not be reached for comment.
‘Not good neighbors’
Sara Craven, 49, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than a decade, said she expected loud music, crowds and the occasional litter given her home’s proximity to the entertainment district. But she described Bar 3606 and OT Tavern as a “nuisance.”
“Gunfire is not something we expected moving here,” said Craven, 49, who also lives on Longview Street. The businesses “are just not responsible owners and they are not good neighbors,” she said.
Dallas police said in a statement that the department was aware of concerns and will provide extra patrols. The statement said neighborhood police officers also will provide businesses with “crime prevention information.”
“I have three kids and it’s scary that there are shootings and a police presence,” 46-year-old Tony Desler said. Desler lives about a block north of the bars.
Desler said he does not oppose the bars being in the neighborhood and is not certain the solution is to close them down. Instead, he is in favor of bringing increased neighborhood attention to the issue of safety.
Dattalo of the neighborhood association has been working to rezone the building, and the group has taken additional steps with city officials to protest Bar 3606′s Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission license, which is up for renewal.
“The shootouts have got to stop,” he said. “It’s a nuisance issue to have to listen to the thumping bass at 2 a.m. in the morning. It’s an issue to have to walk past there and smell pot coming out of the place. It’s an issue to have to walk through the drug paraphernalia. … Those are issues, but the shootings take it to a whole other level.”