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Two-steppin’ in the right direction: Council approves first dance hall opening in downtown Kyle

By Moses Leos III

After five months and more than $100,000 worth of renovations, Buda and Kyle business owner James Rios is approaching the opening of Kyle’s first downtown dance hall. 

The final hurdle for Rios’ dance hall, Desperados, was cleared on Oct. 21. Kyle City Council unanimously approved on second reading to add “Dance Hall” to the list of approved land uses to Central Business District 2 (CBD 2). 

Rios believes the addition of the new land use designation is a step in the right direction for Kyle. 

“It goes to show that the city council listens to what…the community needs,” Rios said. “They (city council) aren’t afraid to take steps to give the community what they want.” 

Rios said the spark for a dance hall idea came when patrons at his Kyle bar, Centerfield, left to go to a dance club in either Austin or San Marcos. 

Wanting to keep the clientele in Kyle, Rios researched what it took to bring a dance hall. He eventually bought the property at 110 West Center Street in May.  The property previously housed the Center Market Grocery. 

But Rios learned the Kyle Code of Ordinances didn’t define dance hall as an accepted land use. Additionally, there was no language defining the process to acquire a liquor license for such an establishment.

Rios approached the Kyle Planning Department and Planning Director Manny De La Rosa for help in amending land use definitions in CBD-2. It includes allowing for dance halls to apply for an on-premises alcohol consumption license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). 

Per TABC laws, businesses with on-premises permits must make 51 or more percent of their income from alcohol sales. 

“We added the ability to be able to provide alcoholic beverages,” De La Rose said. “(Business owners) can also provide a food menu, but not the extent that the restaurants have.” 

According to De La Rosa, the amendment was “vetted through staff,” then put before the Kyle Planning and Zoning Commission, which approved the change by a 5-1 vote on Sept. 23. 

While waiting for the definition change, Rios began to make improvements on the interior of the structure. It included bringing much of the structures electrical wiring up to code, along with renovating the bathrooms. 

With additional lighting and sound improvements, Rios estimates spending more than $100,000. That cost includes $38,000 to $42,000 in significant exterior improvements that will be done in several phases. Updating the facade to match the CBD-2 requirements, along with installing additional light fixtures are among the planned changes. 

But because Rios received approval in September for a Kyle Downtown Revitalization Grant, the city will reimburse 50 percent of his exterior expenditures. 

The addition of a new downtown business both excites and concerns Texas Pie Company owner and chef Julie Albertson. She hopes it will revitalize the downtown district. 

“It will bring a lot of people that aren’t in the area at this time,” Albertson said. “It’s a different aspect of downtown Kyle instead of pie. They’ll hopefully come in and do some business here as well.” 

Some are not as optimistic. One downtown business owner across the street from the new dancehall was concerned that another alcohol-based business was “overkill.” 

Kyle resident Jerry Kolacny spoke against the dance hall at the Oct. 8 city council meeting. He advocated for “upscale housing” instead of bars and dance establishments. 

He also felt the dance hall was a “step in the wrong direction.” He cited safety concerns, specifically an incident he said occurred at Centerfield Bar and Grill. 

“This dance hall … isn’t an innocent business endeavor,” Kolacny said. “This council is willing to have just about anything, even if it’s not in CBD-2. I would consider a brothel opening up in Kyle. It would bring sales taxes. The sky is the limit.” 

Rios defrayed the accusation, saying the incident Kolacny referred to had nothing to do with Centerfield or the Dark Horse Tavern, another bar on the next block. 

He also mentioned several measures toward keeping clientele safe, including full access for Kyle Police to video cameras. He is also considering hiring off-duty Hays County or Kyle Police officers for security. 

“Anyone who does or thinks of doing anything, they are going to get caught,” Rios said. “We’re not going to tolerate it.”

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