Music’s Over for Palladium Nightclub

Music’s Over for Palladium Nightclub

After years of neighbor complaints, Lee Highway bar loses ability to throw parties with live music

For the Arlington Latino community, the Palladium Nightclub is known as a lively venue where one can samba the night away.

"We have birthday parties here and other small gatherings," said Israel Rodriguez, who has owned the Lee Highway club since October.

For the surrounding Yorktown neighborhood and adjacent retailers, the nightclub is somewhere between a nuisance and a menace.

Residents who live behind the Palladium, which is in the Garden City shopping center, are tired of loud, weekend parties, and the drunken revelers who get into fights and vandalize parked cars. Open dumpsters have brought rats to Yorktown, and graffiti peppers the neighborhood, residents said.

"It makes absolutely no sense to operate a nightclub at that location," said David Haring, president of the Yorktown Civic Association. "It’s a detriment to the neighborhood."

THE NEIGHBORHOOD HAS repeatedly lobbied the county government to not renew the nightclub’s permit, so that it could no longer host live entertainment and parties.

After years of meetings and filing formal complaints, neighbors have finally gotten their way. The County Board has barred Rodriguez from having DJs or bands in the nightclub, after he violated the terms of his permit by allowing a college graduation party on a Thursday night.

"We all want businesses to succeed," said County Board member Walter Tejada, "but when there are violations there must be meaningful consequences."

It is extremely rare for the county to not renew a bar’s music permit, having happened approximately half-a-dozen times in the past 25 years, county official said. The county had worked tirelessly with Rodriguez and previous owners to mitigate the club’s impact on the neighborhood, but to no avail.

The Palladium "is a thorn in the side of this community," said County Manager Ron Carlee, during a July 10 board meeting. "We made it very, very clear… that they need to abide by their conditions."

Rodriguez, a 20-year Arlington resident, bought the nightclub last October, but was not aware of the previous owner’s problems with the surrounding community. But under his auspices, the trash and noise issues were as bad as ever, neighbors said.

"You’d see beer cans and broken bottles on the side of the road," said Asima Jamil, who works at Sana Jewelers next door to the nightclub.

Responding to the complaints, the county and Rodriguez agreed early this spring that there would be trash pick-up twice a week, rather than once, and that his staff would walk around the shopping center each morning collecting rubbish.

After the meeting with officials, "I took care of the place," Rodriguez said. "It’s very clean outside now."

Charlie Jackson, owner of Modern Micro Imaging in the shopping center, said that none of the stores have had trouble with the nightclub since the twice-a-week trash collection began.

THEN ON APRIL 20, Rodriguez agreed to host the graduation party, even though he knew he was not permitted to have music on Thursday nights.

"I made a mistake," he said. "We all have a right to make mistakes."

The party itself "was not a scandal," Rodriguez said. The police came at one point and deemed that the music volume was not too loud. And Rodriguez made sure that no patrons hung around after the party ended a little past midnight.

The board members said that they were done giving the owner repeated chances to abide by his permit. But Rodriguez said that he is being unjustly punished for the misconduct of previous owners.

Jackson, who owns the shop two doors down from the nightclub, said that the board "was looking for an excuse to close them down" and was acting as "a tool" of the neighborhood.

Rodriguez fears that without live bands and DJs, the Palladium may be forced to close, an action that would certainly please some of his neighbors.

"The rent is very steep and the only way to pay it is by having music," said Pablo Rodas, who helps run the Palladium.

County officials promised they will provide economic assistance and training to ensure the bar remains profitable.

In the end, county officials admitted that it may have been a mistake to believe that a nightclub could co-exist with single-family homes only a few feet away.

"Is live entertainment appropriate for businesses in this shopping center?" Carlee asked rhetorically. "Can it really work here?"