DALLAS -- A Dallas staple is in the middle of some tough times thanks to two little words: eminent domain.
The Elbow Room, a bar that has been in business for decades - and is a popular watering hole for Baylor employees - will soon have to move or shut down.
That's because Texas A&M wants to move their dental college to that spot to build a bigger building, and increase enrollment. And because A&M is a state school - they have the power of eminent domain behind them.
"In April, they kinda drop a bomb on us," said Rosie Nagy, who owns the Elbow Room with her husband. "And they said we've reviewed your lease, and in your lease, there's a clause that says if there is eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain is conveyed, then your lease terminates."
To customers, it's like an elbow to the gut.
"At first, I didn't believe it because I heard it somewhere else," said Dorothy Philbrick, a patron of the E.R. "And so then I came and talked to Rosie and, yes, I was a little shaken, a little sad."
"It's pretty sorry. It's a lot of other words that you really can't say on network news and everything. Like it's pretty sorry," said another customer, John Mitchell.
But to the owners, they're already trying to figure out where to move the E.R. The problem is, they can't do it alone.
"We realized they weren't going to cooperate with us," said Nagy of the kind of response she's gotten from A&M officials. "It may be legally right, but it's not morally right. And morally, they should be working with us. Morally, they should be saying, 'you know what, we're not going to destroy these people's lives, we're going to help them relocate."
Texas A&M gave NewsFix a statement:
As a public institution, we are committed to serving Texans and making judicious use of the money we receive from taxpayers. This has been our guiding philosophy throughout our negotiations regarding the property currently occupied by the Elbow Room.
The expansion of our dental school, which was approved by the Legislature in 2015, will enable us to better serve Texans, especially those in need, in the Dallas region and beyond. As a result of these new facilities, our capacity for patient visits, which currently number approximately 100,000 per year, is expected to increase by up to 40 percent. Additionally, there is a shortage of dental health care providers in the state of Texas. Our goal in increasing the dental school’s enrollment is to train more dentists while maintaining our position as the nation’s most diverse dental school, so that we can close the dental health care gap and ensure that Texas residents have access to the best and brightest oral health professionals in their own communities throughout the state.
In January, conscious of the importance of protecting the taxpayers who support us, we began negotiations with the property owner. We believed and continue to believe that an offer of fair market value would be fair to the property owner and consistent with our obligations to Texans.
The appraiser chosen by the property owner actually came in lower than our appraiser’s value. We offered to pay the higher of the two. Unfortunately, our offer was not accepted.
When the property owner demanded significantly more than the appraisals could justify, we were duty-bound to reluctantly explore eminent domain, a last resort option.
As for the tenants who operate the Elbow Room under a lease, we recognize that this puts them in a difficult position and have offered to pay reasonable relocation expenses should they decide to move their bar. In addition, we have promised to give them adequate notice before any move would be necessary.
As this matter moves through the legal process, it is important not to lose sight of the public need and the public good that can be accomplished with the expansion of the dental school. Thousands of Texans will benefit for generations to come.
So talks will likely continue between the two parties, and who knows, maybe the last call at the old location is just the beginning of a new chapter - with plenty of Elbow Room to spare.