Denton Roots Mistaken for Weeds

Denton Facebook was up in arms this weekend over an article published by the Denton Record-Chronicle concerning the influx of bars to the Downtown Denton area and how it is affecting the culture of the community. Specifically, how a yoga studio does not want another bar going in next door.

In the window of an empty building at 701 S Elm Street hangs a notice for a TABC permit request for liquor sales. This building has belonged to the Crider family since the 80’s, housed several different businesses through the owners leasing their property, and is now in the earliest stages of what will become the Denton Beer Garden. The Dentonite caught up with Jordan Crider and his sister Hailey, who co-own the establishment along with their family to better understand the situation and hear their side of the story.

Jordan Crider and Haleigh Harrison’s family were all born and raised in Denton County, and the family has long been residents for generations prior. Graduates of the University of North Texas, the two are following in the steps of their grandmother who graduated from college in the 1900’s when UNT was named Texas Normal College. I think we can all agree this little town far from normal, and in all the best ways. Harrison is excited to share her love for Denton and the community. "We love everything to do with Denton; we volunteer with the North Texas State Fair, we operate other businesses in Denton, we attend most functions around the community, and that’s the main reason we’re doing this – we’re excited for the opportunity to be involved in the Denton Community Events.”

When the last tenants left the building in July, they knew that the timing was perfect and Crider says they immediately made the decision to renovate and create a beer garden. ”We wanted a place where we could bring the community together," he says, "through events, games, craft beer, and a generally good time. We think it’s a great location; it’s less than half a mile from the square.”

They've started to make headway in finding solutions to the parking issue, which seems to be a constant headache all over Denton. Harrison and Crider have begun evaluating the pain points for the business and are trying to find a way to solve the problems now and not wait for them to pop up later during the renovation process. “We have a lot of ideas for the design of the entire space to make it a friendly, relaxing, atmosphere with a Denton feel! Denton is full of respectable people that enjoy sitting around having a good time,” Harrison says.

The friendly and energetic demeanor of the brother and sister duo is pretty contagious, as it should be. They are working toward creating something that everyone can enjoy on the South side of the Square, while celebrating the community they have long been part of.

Harrison is eager to display the history of the building and the town on the walls of the Beer Garden. "We plan to display historical Denton information in the building, as well," she says. "We want to participate in community events and we have tons of ideas for hosting our own events to bring Denton together. TOGETHERNESS is what we see within Denton, and that’s what we want to promote.”

In the 1940’s the building was better known as the Dairy Mart, and the sibling duo have been meeting with the Denton Historical Society to locate photos of the original building. They'd like to bring the Dairy Mart back to life or at least give a nod to the building's past as they begin to plan out renovations.

With a focus on supporting local commerce, they also plan to utilize local vendors to help execute their vision. When they first heard a petition was being passed around to business neighbors, who are also long-time family friends, they were caught off guard. They had no idea what the issue could be, possibly due to the simple fact that they had not been contacted nor had any line of communication opened where a problem had been voiced.

On Friday, October 21st, a Denton Record-Chronicle reporter contacted Crider through the number on the building that connects to the Property Manager. When the reporter explained what the article was about, it was all news to Crider who still hadn’t been contacted by the owners of Twisted Bodies.

”We hadn’t received any contact from Twisted Bodies affiliates personally or through our property management company prior to Monday, October 24 when they returned our call from Friday, October 21. We have a meeting set with them for Wednesday evening, which was at their earliest convenience,” he Justin.

Crider and Harrison are ready to get to the bottom of this mystery and appeared thrown off by the lack of communication. On several occasions, Crider had taken to maintaining the front lawn area of the building that spanned both storefronts, had done his due diligence in making sure that they had adhered to all zoning requirements set forth by the city, and had even designed the Beer Garden entrance to face Maple so everything would be focused more so on the backside of the building .They had done everything right, so what exactly had gone wrong?

The owners of Twisted Bodies, Carissa Laitinen-Kniss and Khristen Palmer, recently moved from their original location at 508 S Elm Street, approximately 2 blocks to their new studio space at 709 S Elm Street, due to frustrations with their neighbor, Jack’s Tavern. According to the interview with the DRC, Kniss and Pahler experienced issues with the management and clientele, with bar patrons “smoking cigarettes while peering at clients inside”, and in some instances even cat-calling or harassing the women as they left the studio. Frustrated with the lack of cooperation from the manager of Jack’s Tavern, they decided to relocate for the safety of the members of the studio.

After a TABC sign went up in the window of the currently empty 701 S. Elm St property, Kniss and Palmer began to grow concerned for their Twisted Bodies community due to their experience with Jack’s Tavern and the lack of cooperation from the business manager. ”We aren’t trying to bash or personally attack anyone,” Palmer says. "A Beer Garden at the intersection of Elm & Maple may not be the best location.”

The ladies have nothing against the Crider's, but worry about the addition of another bar. Kniss communicated this frustration with the DRC by saying, “There seems to be a new bar opening [in Denton] every month, and I think they’ve had a negative impact on small businesses.”

The zoning put forth by the City of Denton allows for bar/restaurant/commercial businesses up to Eagle, and the only bar on the South side of the Square is currently Jack’s Tavern.

Hopefully through meeting together the small business owners can find common ground and collaborate on a solution that makes everyone happy. With only the recent opening of Backyard on Bell, most new bars have been the result of one closing down, and as bars are small businesses themselves it looks like the South side of Denton may be getting just what it needs to bring some more life to that part of town.

Header image design by Brittany Keeton