San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

by BRAD ROLLINS and SEAN BATURA

Owners of Crystal River Inn, a fixture of San Marcos tourism for more than a quarter century, say they are struggling to keep the bed and breakfast in business after a trendy open-air bar started up next door.

Since it began operations in May in a renovated service station on Hopkins Street, Zelick’s Icehouse has been a wildly popular addition to the city’s nightlife, drawing an eclectic crowd of bikers, river rats, college students and young professionals to its pea-gravel courtyard and Adirondack chairs. But Cathy and Mike Dillon say the roar of the party is scaring off guests in droves from their formerly quaint inn, consisting of 12 suites spread between three buildings including the main 1883 house.

“We can no longer offer our guests a peaceful nights’ sleep, in spite of our efforts to muffle the sound coming into our buildings,” Cathy Dillon told city official last month. “We have tried talking to Zelick’s management and they aren’t sympathetic, indicating that they have a right to make money … and we should simply soundproof our building. That is like putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage.”

The Dilllons supported brothers Chase and Seth Katzs’ bid for a conditional use permit from the city in June 2010 to open the bar in what used to be a U-Haul rental yard. After the bar finally opened in May 2011, the innkeepers quickly soured on their new neighbor. They say the bass from music played at the bar rattles windows and that bar-goers urinate in their shrubbery and garden, steal their Christmas decorations and, in one case, kicked over and broke a lawn statue while an inn manager looked on. In the months since, they’ve kept a log of run-ins with Zelick’s staff and patrons and collected more than a dozen written complaints from guests, some of whom swear they will never return.

When the Katzs’ conditional use permit came before the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission last month for renewal, the Dillons had a parade of angry neighbors and guests lined up to make their case. They asked the commission to impose conditions on the renewal that include requiring the bar to close at midnight, instead of 2 a.m., on weekdays and eliminating horseshoes and other noise-making outdoor games after certain hours.

The Katzs’ fielded their own team of supporters at the P&Z meeting and pointed out that under the city’s point system for evaluating conditional use permits, Zelicks had accumulated exactly zero demerits. They said Crystal River Inn or other neighbors have called the police with noise complaints 14 times since the bar’s opening and that on none of those occasions did the responding officer find the noise level on adjoining property more than the 63 decibel limit established in city codes.

“I don’t think [Zelicks] should be punished or should get any different treatment than they were treated last time they were before this commission for their CUP permit,” said Ryan Perkins, an historical district resident who normally opposes the commercialization of Hopkins Street but supports Zelick’s. “They have made many concessions for the sake of being good neighbors.”

Whatever sympathy Zelick’s supporters hoped to get from the planning and zoning commission, however, evaporated when someone mentioned that the bar’s conditional use permit had expired in June 2011 and that the bar has been operating since without proper permitting.

“For four or five months there (the Katz’s) were breaking the law, because the law requires that you have to have a conditional use permit be in place in order to sell alcohol, and they did not have that by their own negligence,” planning commissioner Curtis Seebeck said.

Matthew Lewis, the city’s Development Services division director, told commissioners the failure to catch the expired permit was an oversight by the city and Zelicks. Lewis and other staff said the city is not required by law to provide notifications regarding expiring CUPs, though the city plans to begin sending notice after an internal audit of current permits.

After Zelicks applied for a new permit, the bar was authorized to continue operating until the permit was granted or denied, said Jon Foreman, a city planner.

The commission eventually voted to give Zelick’s a six-month reprieve to resolve their neighbor problems, instead of a full three-year permit renewal like Zelick’s had requested and city staff recommended. Said planning commissioner Travis Kelsey, himself a barowner, “I would encourage them to work together on it before we’re put in a situation to pick one business over the other.”

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35 thoughts on “Quaint B&B, happening bar fight for their lives

  1. This is a tough one. I can testify that sound reducing windows ARE effective. And an equalizer that cut out the bass on the bar’s sound system would likely be helpful. I’d hate to see either business go away but if I’m wearing my judge’s robes I gotta side with the B&B since they were there first.

  2. I agree it’s a quandary. I like Zelicks myself as much as anyone and am of course sympathetic to the challenges of young entrepreneurs. During Hurricane Rita my sister and her family took refuge at Crystal River Inn. So I have affection for both places. Having said that, Zelicks has been getting spectacularly bad advice on how to handle this and did not endear themselves to anyone with their hied spokesman’s cocksure, arrogant bearing at p&z. I hope they work it out.

  3. 1) I would like to point out that is article is somewhat biased, leaning in favor of the CRI and the Dillions and that simply is unprofessional. I have seen first hand how completely uncooperative the Dillon’s have been. In fact, they even sent a mass email to home owners of the historic distric stirring up fear by warning them that eventually their homes will be turned into a 6th Street in Austin. Is that honestly going to happen in San Marcos? No. Also, as the article has noted, Zelicks has not broken any laws when it comes to the noise level. I think both have a right to be in operation but the Dillons need to acknowledge that they supported Zelicks and knew full well that is was going to be a bar. They have resorted to juvenile acts such as spreading rumors and childish name calling. I normally don’t get involved in things that aren’t my business but I am tired of people just defending the Dillons, it’s simply unfair and even uninformed.

  4. It’s a tough one *now*. It wasn’t necessarily a tough one at the time that the original decision was made. It is remarkable how often the city manages to manufacture these conflicts – loud noise next to a B&B, people throwing pumpkins off the balconies of the Loft apartments, onto the property of the neighboring funeral home, buffer space converted to multi-family housing at Sagewood, proposed commercial property at 12 and Craddock, with no buffer between the property and the adjacent single family homes.

    I love Zelick’s too. It’s probably my favorite bar in town. It’s just unfortunate that the problems are being discovered now. I would hope that P&Z and City Council would be equipped to make informed decisions about zoning changes, and variances, and the like. Even if the Crystal River folks supported this decision in the beginning, it is not their role to understand what makes for a compatible business. I applaud them for supporting this business in the beginning, whether they are acting appropriately today, or not. That does not absolve P&Z and City Council or their responsibility to do their due diligence when making these decisions.

    I bet a sound engineer could have predicted this, for about $100.

  5. Which one is bringing more tax dollars a night to the city, don’t think a b&b will ever make that kind of money, they should turn their place into a bar, bet they could have a closet full of money this year !

  6. This is the exact same thing that is happening all over San Marcos. Long-time residents protecting their property values and wanting to get a good night’s sleep and new neighbors that want to party and whose guests end up trashing the area around the party with noise, cans and urine! If this ends up being solved amicably – please share your solution.

  7. I called the Fire Marshall on several occasions on Mother’s Day and the next week when they were blasting the lead paint…(that booze house is located right near a school) to renovate the old filling station, It was irresponsible how the workers were treated as they had no hearing nor respiratory protection. I did see one of the City Council members present quite often on that job site.

  8. LMC, how do you know the paint contained lead? If you knew it was lead you should have called TCEQ, not the fire marshall.

    What is the significance of you having seen a city councilperson at the job site? Are you implying there was a conspiracy?

    When you use the term “booze house” it indicates you have a bias and makes me suspicious of anything else you say.

  9. Mary hit the nail squarely on the head. After six years here, we’ve become convinced that the best interests of single-family homeowners in San Marcos take a distant back seat to developers, property management companies, the university, and businesses that cater to students.

    No, ILoveSM, Hopkins will probably never become 6th Street. But it doesn’t have to fall that far to become something homeowners in the area find untenable.

    A case in point: We live in one of the city’s historic neighborhoods. A few doors down from us is a rental house that has become what can only be described as a “flophouse.” The yard is filled with vehicles, bikes, coolers and trash — it’s become a dump. Despite reports to the city about flagrant violations of the occupancy ordinance, it appears that more people live there now than ever.

    This isn’t the only flophouse in the neighborhood. And they are part of a trend — one that erodes property values and diminishes the quality of life for the people who will be living here longer than six to 12 months at a time. It also shows how San Marcos decision makers care so little for the historic neighborhoods that cannot be replaced and that can serve as a draw for future residents. Yet all neighborhoods here seem in some way under siege, in the way, or simply open for business.

    It’s too bad. We like San Marcos. But over the years, we’ve noticed that the college students have grown louder and ruder, the enforcement of rental ordinances more lax, and the willingness of the city to act in service of developers and the university all too eager.

    The upshot is that we’re now considering moving. Of course, we’d have a better chance of recouping the investment we’ve made in our home if there wasn’t a dump down the street…

  10. The comments on this story seem determined to make this yet another “business development vs. single family homeowners” issue. But the story itself is about a neighboring business complaining about the new kid on the block. Frankly, I never understood how a B&B could exist on such a busy street anyway and with the growth of that area (not just Zelicks) that type of business is more and more untenable in that part of town all the time. It was going to be a matter of time before Crystal River found itself in trouble anyway, bar next door or not.

    Unfortunately, the story itself is presented in such a way that objective analysis of the situation is difficult (the bias of the writers against Zelicks is pretty clear) but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the reason for that.

  11. Some of the comments sound that way, but the issue is broader than that. Another example is subsidizing Target’s move, and allowing restrictions to remain, on the types of businesses that can move into Springtown.

    The consequences of that move were pretty significant. I’m not saying that every unintended consequence should be anticipated, or that they should all be show stoppers, but for City Council to not even know that there were restrictions on that property screams uninformed decision making. Ditto for not anticipating that a bar, with no doors or windows, next to a B&B, would likely cause conflict.

    Whether Crystal River was going to find itself in trouble eventually is debatable, to put it mildly. Either way, I can’t see how it would be appropriate for the city to contribute to their demise, based on a theory that they were going to be screwed eventually, anyway.

  12. So customers of the CRI are more annoyed by a happening bar scene than the chants and cheers of the nearby sorority? Zelicks is a good business for this town, economically speaking, and I have never heard a good word about the management of the CRI. Business is business…evolve or die.

  13. We contacted the Fire Marshall hoping he would IMMEDIATELY STOP the lead paint plume of smoke downtown. Then we proceeded thru the city departments after follow up calls were placed to his office after that Mother’s Day. I would have loved to have sent in the paint chip samples that we collected (which were washing all throughout downtown after that heavy rain) had I known TCEQ would be the enforcement arm of such flagrant violations.

    Our past work with TCEQ has been quite successful. Within one day of San Marcos News Live’s call, they removed the PERC barrels downtown (behind Wally’s) and later tore down the moldy building. Small business owners advised they had been calling for sometime to have the barrels removed. Furthermore, the water was tested to make sure there was no leakage.

    Regarding the council member who was present on multiple occasions….draw your own conclusions….he used to be on the P&Z.

    I would never support a business, which in the process of opening, emitted such hazards into the air and water. Check your dates lead paint was standard practice for industrial buildings during that time of construction.

    But, hey y’all won’t go out and vote San Marcos…enjoy your booze house….

  14. Despite the GREED driven efforts of typically non-local business interests, some families are struggling to maintain property values and sanctity in established neighborhoods. I for one, make repetive calls to the police department when intrussive noise is forced upom me at my house, 12-14 blocks from these noisy social abominations. yes, I enjoy good live music, and outdoors sometimes. The TSU-university has outdoor concerts, and , respectfully turns of the speaker by 10 pm typically. This is what you call being a good neighbor, and unfortunately, our own taxpayer REPRESENTATIVES San MArcos seem to think that our city is now fair game for any business that wants to destroy the peaceful city that is loved dearly, as a peaceful city that we own homes in, and have invested in, counting on adequate protection form our elected leaders and the people that they appoint. If they continue to disregard the voices of JANE and john Doe citizens, I reckon petitions, referendums, and recalls will bring some closure to a situation that is intollerable. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, WHY SHOULD A NEW DRUNK PIT BE ALLOWED TO DESTROY AN ESTABLISHED BUSINESS NEXT DOOR TO IT, NOT TO MENTION THE NOISE POLLUTION THAT DRIFTS ACCROSS TOWN TO MY BACKYARD, DESTROYING MY QUALITY OF LIFE! I WILL CONTINUE TO REPORT NOISE NUISANCE ISSUES, UNTIL THEY CEASE TO EXIST! HAPPY TUESDAY 🙂 JAIMY L. BREIHAN

  15. I actually do enjoy that booze house, and I am really looking forward to the next chance I get to head over there.

    It is just always cheaper/easier to fix things in the planning stages, than it is after work has been finished.

    I work in software, and it is often said that for every $1 you spend addressing a problem in the planning/design stage, you would have spent $10 to fix it in development, or $100 to fix it after the product had shipped. I suspect similar ratios exist in construction as well.

    I hope that a good solution can be found, but I suspect it will be much more expensive than it would have been on the front end. Whether Zelick’s bears that expense, or Crystal River, or they split it, or somehow the city ends up footing the bill, it is going to cost someone something.

  16. LMC, if you’re talking about Ryan Thomason, I believe he was the contractor on the job. That would explain his presence. As to the lead, it’s a brick building and may well have been painted after 1978 (the year LBP was outlawed).

  17. Nice try SMsince95. It was taken down to the bone. That equates lead paint. Moreover, if Mr. Thomason was the contractor, wow to bad for his workers. Our video footage shows quite clearly how they were treated. Also, i encourage the owners of the B&B to file an open records request. We voiced our concerns on the locale of the B&B, churches and schools back when we were living on Harvey in terms of the booze house. I see the P&Z got “the memo.”

  18. Oh, and by the way, special thanks to Zelicks for killing ours and our neighbor’s garden and getting our whole block sick. If you’d like i can produce names of people who got sick from your LEAD PAINT PLUME OF SMOKE THAT FILLED DOWNTOWN!

    Y’all will rant and rave about development near your hood, don’t judge me when it effects mine. Air, noise and water pollution are real. Not to mention sound pollution on Mother’s Day.

  19. You state “…when they were blasting the lead paint…” with no consideration that they may have done testing and found there was no lead. You’ve made a serious charge. I’m no attorney but I wonder if you’ve committed libel. I’m not defending Zelick’s but it’s always nice when we can stick to the FACTS. I’ve enjoyed a few evenings at Zelick’s and I love it – wonderful design. I hope the two businesses work it out. If you look at the San Jose Hotel on S. Congress in Austin they have similar conditions so it must be possible.

  20. Well, its pretty sad SMsince95, when the residents of Harvey were the only ones collecting the paint samples and placing them in our glass Mason jars…not the city…

    How do i know? Because I asked during the course of my conversations with the City.

    “Cheers!!”

  21. But you haven’t said yet that you had the samples tested and they contained lead. I don’t know if anyone tested the paint and it sounds like you don’t either.

  22. Google Street View shows the Mobil station and U-Haul trucks. I don’t discount the noise issue but on the other hand, Zelick’s is sure more attractive than what WAS there.

  23. In all these comments something seems to be lost. The Crystal River Inn is not in a residential neighborhood. In fact you would probably be hard pressed to find anyone still alive who remembers when that was a residential neighborhood.

    If the owners of the CRI have been marketing their B.& B. as being in a quiet small town atmosphere they have been guilty of false advertising, and this did not just happen upon the opening of Zellicks. I can think of many people who would lke to stay and a beatiful old home within easy walking distance of a nice restaurant (Palmer’s) an interessting coffee house (Tantra), and now a nice, well run bar. Maybe instead of fighting Zellicks, The CRI needs to work with them and go after a slight differnt clientele.

  24. That’s more along the line of what I was thinking Larry. They (CRI) seem to be trying to promote their place as a quaint (per the title of this article) little out of the way place….but they’re in a commercial-zoned area a couple blocks from the square on one of the busiest streets in town. Maybe once upon a time they had that, but that ship has sailed.

    It isn’t the fault of Zelicks (or anything else that may come along within earshot of CRI) that the area is growing and developing. To my knowledge, Zelicks didn’t get any zoning variances to build what they built (such variances being the unofficial San Marcos boogeyman). I suspect this is to a great extent manufactured outrage because Zelicks is drawing business away from a certain news site owner’s interests around the square….after all, I didn’t see any articles complaining when Chick Fil A opened right next to the mattress store…..

  25. Dano, I own the majority of the San Marcos Mercury and I don’t own a downtown bar. Scott Gregson is a minority owner of this site and he does own Texas Music Theater. He found out about this article the same way you did –when he read it after publication. Being called biased is an occupational hazard I accept but I did want to correct this issue of fact.

  26. Most of these comments are poorly written and feature numerous half-truths and flat out lies. San Marcos troglodytes! Metaphorical-missing fools.

  27. I appreciate your candor, Brad. I am generally inclined to give the benefit of the doubt in many cases. However, this publication (along with its predecessors) has a long track history of giving coverage to issues that reflect Mr Gregson’s interests.

    Whether the issue is downtown development (or development around SM that could impact the square, where Mr Gregson owns many properties) or the heavy promotion of the Texas Music Theater, the Mercury/SMDN/Newstreamz has provided great coverage of issues that can easily be seen as important to its owners – even if “just a minority owner”.

    It certainly isn’t the only example of a news publication reflecting the bias of its owners (ever read the Statesman?), nor is it the only time the bully pulpit has been used in this little town of ours. But I hope for better for both the readers of this publication and for San Marcos as a whole.

  28. Fair enough on most points. I was addressing the specific suggestion that this article was written the way it was to make trouble for a competitor of Texas Music Theater. I just don’t do things that way.

    We do give Texas Music Theater a generous amount of coverage and will continue to do so. It’s a gem that I am glad to see the community embracing and it’s bringing acts to town that would not otherwise ever perform here.

    It is not unhealthy for smart news consumers to question the motivations and perspective of the news gatherers. One of the checks and balances on the influence of the media are these forums for people to talk about the news — even if it inevitably includes a fair amount of uninformed speculation.

  29. Lisa, you state as fact that the paint was lead-based and that you collected samples and yet never actually answer the question of whether or not they where tested. I’ll ask directly were the paint samples tested and found to contain lead? Do you have ANY paperwork or ANY proof whatsoever to back up your claim? A simple yes or no would be appreciated.

  30. ANY proof whatsoever to back up your claim?
    LMC once again is spreading false allegation. It is pathetic to see her and her husband around San Marcos with that camera. Go find a real job, couple! Let’s teach Lisa Marie Coppoletta a lesson Let’s sue her. Enough is enough!

  31. The two business are missing an important business opportunity here.
    The people who drink at the bar should be offered a discount to spend a night at the hotel. Remember “Drink and Drive Go to the Jail.”
    The Owners of Crystal River Inn can’t blame Zelick’s Icehouse for not getting any business, blame Mr. Bush for that.
    For those Trouble Makers complaining about sound pollution; buy some earplugs or get the hell out San Marcos. A Mosque is a good place for moving.

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