Let me start off by disclaiming that I graduated from the Dallas Comedy House improv program in 2016, I have been in troupes and internships there ever since, and I love DCH.
But, I am also deeply involved and in love with the Alternative Comedy Theater and Stomping Ground Comedy. So, my love for DCH is not monogamous, and should DCH go under, I would be in a better position to continue my sketch and improv doings uninterrupted than a lot of other people.
“Going under” is a thing that might happen to DCH because their new landlord is trying to shut them down over lease violations that DCH’s lawyers describe as “contrived.”
The reaction to by the Dallas comedy community, as well as the response by their Deep Ellum neighbors, has been as heartening, as passionate, and as strong as you would hope.
So strong, in fact, that the new landlord, Black Market Investments LLC (they run barbecue restaurants) felt compelled to respond. And respond they did, in a way that’s so miscalculated, so revealing, and frankly so stupid that it calls for a fisking. It reads…
We, the Terry Black Family, take the allegations made by the Dallas Comedy House very seriously and against our legal advice think it is absolutely necessary to get as much of our side of the story out as legally possibly [sic].
Against our legal advice! So brave. You brave, brave investment management company.
It is tough to get all of the facts out under these circumstances. Although some people have already convicted us and promised to see that we are ruined, we must speak out to refute these false allegations.
Remember this part about false allegations. It will be important in a minute.
While threatening us with taking this matter to the press, Ms. Austin …
That would be Dallas Comedy House owner Amanda Austin. And she did take it to the press, or at least the press latched on to the public post you seem to be referring to. This was not a “threat,” but something the public at large ought to know about.
… and her legal team have made it abundantly clear as a threat that we cannot release certain information to the public. We would love nothing more than to show the public the issues that must be rectified. We, as commercial landowners, have an obligation to the general public and our tenants to comply with all laws and other basic requirements under any lease. Many issues at hand are 100 percent non-negotiable no matter how lenient we would like to be. We simply cannot ignore the professional recommendations we have been given regarding issues on our property.
Black Market Investments would LIKE to be lenient, but dammit, Amanda forced their hand with all these glaring, dangerous code violations. Violations that, sure, are not obvious to the layman. And, true, the fire marshal confirms they passed an inspection on April 11, even though the marshal was acting on an “anonymous complaint” that I’m sure was just a coincidence. And the last landlord, gosh, they were so derelict that they let DCH go on with these code violations for years!
You also shouldn’t be swayed by the fact that, despite being fairly well known to the DCH family, having a long salt-and-pepper beard that underscores my 42 years of age, I am always, always ALWAYS carded walking into the door at DCH, and have been since long before Black Market Investments bought the building.
Did you know that a colleague of mine was told that her troupe couldn’t perform after 10 p.m. because it had members younger than 21? Indeed, said 19- and 20-year olds would have to clear out after 10? Because of relevant regulations and ordinances?
That was before Black Market Investments bought the building, too. But trust Black Market when they say that Amanda Austin is a scofflaw and they’re really just looking out for public safety!
Ms. Austin’s assertion that her introduction to us was a default letter could not be further from the truth. We went above and beyond to notify her of numerous issues and gave her over two months to resolve these issues.
This is the only specific data point that Black Market’s statement addresses. In the Dallas News piece linked above, Austin elaborates, saying that she found out about the change of owners when she went to the old owners to get a permit for this year’s Dallas Comedy Festival and was told they don’t own the building anymore.
So she didn’t just say she didn’t say her introduction to the new landlords was a default letter, but she crafted this damnably plausible back story for it, too! She’s a wily one, that Amanda!
It is also ironic that Ms. Austin chose to close her statement by saying, “I will not be bullied.” It is disturbing to see several people jump to such drastic conclusions about us and our family business based upon completely biased and one-sided stories.
WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE LANDLORDS?!!!!!
Much of what has been written is misleading or completely false, and we think any rational person would agree, when there are business disputes things like this happen when one side tries to win public opinion.
I have read this sentence 10 times and I still can’t make heads or tails of it. But here we are with “completely false” being thrown around. Remember, I said to hang on to that thing about allegations? Again, the only one they actually addressed is when Austin came to know when they owned the building.
As far as others spreading rumors and lies, I’m looking for them, and well, I just can’t find them. All Austin HERSELF alleges is that they introduced themselves as the new owners in a brusque manner, and that’s she’s not guilty of the code and lease violations you have laid at her feet.
Overall, we still believe if most of these individuals were to meet our family, get to know us and the business’ we have built, none of this vitriol toward us would be happening.
We steamroll tenants who get in the way of our plans. But we’re pleasant at dinner.
To think that several folks have already found us guilty without any of the facts is what is so disappointing. To the people that read this and understand there are two sides to every story, we appreciate your understanding. Our small family business has worked hard to create a successful establishment for our employees, customers, friends and family. We look forward to your continued support.
Yeah. It’s true we don’t have all the facts. In fact, I didn’t even have as many facts early this week as I do now. Now I see that according to the Dallas Observer, Austin and Black Market Investments sat down before the building changed hands. They were interested in it, and made an offer to Amanda to terminate her lease and move elsewhere.
She thought about it and said no. They asked her for a counteroffer. She provided one. They never responded. She was never informed that they actually did buy the building until the default letters started rolling in.
Let’s recap. Black Market Investments tried to reach a deal with Amanda Austin. They couldn’t agree to terms. Black Market Investments bought the building anyway.
Suddenly, the same tenant, who is known by me and the community to be a fastidious follower of the rules and has been in the same spot for years, is guilty of numerous, egregious violations and Black Market Investments must protect the public and kick her out.
This is such a brazenly transparent ploy, and it makes Black Market’s cries of being the done-wrong good guys so staggeringly disgusting that it boggles the mind.
This would be just as wrong if Austin was running an insurance office out of this location. But hundreds if not thousands of people call Dallas Comedy House their spiritual home. We spend hours every week there, making each other laugh, honing our craft, making friends, being a part of something.
So let me close by saying: Black Market Investments, what you’re trying to do here isn’t just mean, but dumb. I’ve seen many, many restaurants come and go in Deep Ellum over the years, and it doesn’t seem like a good business model to try to buck that trend by severely alienating your Deep Ellum neighbors and scores of DCH friends and alumni before you even open. Especially when the spot is within spitting distance of two excellent BBQ joints, Pecan Lodge and Baker's Ribs.
If you try anyway, and open up a barbecue stand at 3025 Main Street and I’m correct in my estimation that it not succeed, I hope it hurts as bad as you’re trying to hurt the Dallas comedy community now.