LAKE JACKSON — The Zoning Board of Adjustments usually handles requests dealing with the height of a fence or how far away a house is from the road. But after an unusual appeal, they unanimously decided that Lake Studio will not be reclassified as an assembly-based occupancy.
The business at 3 Circle Way was presented to city officials as an adult dance studio, but operated more like a nightclub or dance hall, leading Building Official David Walton to revoke its certificate of occupancy.
At the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting Wednesday afternoon, “Proprietor” Jeffrey Tisdale said he did nothing to warrant that revocation and plans to argue it in court.
Tisdale said he has been a dance teacher for decades, specializing in “social dancing,” country western, ballroom and Latin.
“I thought it was important that this community had the opportunity to dance and learn,” he said.
After operating the business for five nights in late August, offering free alcohol or the option for guests to bring their own, welcoming guests 21 and older and operating from 8 p.m. until the early hours of the morning, the city revoked the certificate and turned off the building’s water.
Tisdale said Walton made numerous errors in issuing his original certificate and he should’ve been an assembly classification rather than business all along.
“I know you guys can figure it out,” Tisdale said to the board. “I hope that you would allow me to run a business here and overturn his decision which is 100 percent incorrect.”
In Lake Jackson’s building code, a dance studio would fit under B, business, rather than A, assembly, Walton told the board. That is why he denied the request for reclassification, he said.
Whether the business was a nightclub or a dance studio was not relevant to Wednesday’s meeting, it was of interest to the zoning board.
Tisdale argued that he should have an assembly classification because of the number of people allowed in the building, he said, as well as the facility having low lighting, recorded music played by a DJ, later than average business hours, tables and seating arranged in a position to create an ill-defined aisle, a specific area designated for dancing, service facilities for food and beverage consumption and a high occupant load density.
“Those are factors that make me closely resemble to an A2,” Tisdale said. “I”m fine with being a B, but I’m more similar to an A.”
“Low lighting, liquor, extremely late or early hours ... and a dance area describes a dance hall or a nightclub,” City Attorney Sherri Russell said.
“It sure looks like one, doesn’t it? It resembles one,” Tisdale said. “But that does not make it one.”
“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” Russell said.
Board member Stephen Shawver asked about the ratio of instructors to students Tisdale would have on a normal night.
“A person can teach 30 people or 100 people,” Tisdale said, adding that the instructor just needs to be heard.
Tisdale said during a night he opened Lake Studio, he had a structured class but no one attended it, they came for the opening party. So Tisdale was out there dancing with the “students” and answering their questions, he said, without mentioning the four other nights he operated.
Shawver said he didn’t understand the association with alcohol.
“I don’t see how alcohol is going to improve the ability of the dance lesson,” he said.
After about an hour of discussion and two pleas from nearby business owners to not allow this business downtown, Shawver made a motion to uphold Walton’s decision. Even if the decision had been overturned, it would not have reinstated the certificate of occupancy.
Yet on Facebook Thursday morning, promoter Karetta Lux again posted that the grand opening is coming soon to the same location.
“The certificate of occupancy remains revoked,” Walton said.