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Business owners reflect on the difficulty of operating in the shadow of King William

Photo: illustration by Chuck Kerr, License: N/A

illustration by Chuck Kerr

Photo: File photo, License: N/A

File photo

Now, he says, “there’s fewer people, the art has diminished, and restaurants have taken over the traffic. We used to do very well on First Friday but in recent years business has gone down.”

Dick Davis, the president of the King William Association, describes the neighborhood as “a sort of a museum, and we’re all a part of the fabric of taking care of it.” He’s witnessed the transformation of the district from a pioneering outpost to a gentrified gold mine. Davis bought his fixer-upper 34 years ago for $25,000 and he says that it’s now appraised at 20 times that value. (But, he cautions, that’s after investing plenty of “sweat equity.”)

Davis considers himself a peacekeeper. A staid man with a South Texas tan, he views the tensions between neighbors and businesses as just a matter of misunderstanding. The King William Association provides a service to neighbors by keeping them informed via weekly email newsletters by and monthly meetings. “It fosters a community you rarely find in other neighborhoods. We keep people aware of things that are going on and we share information. It sparks a get-to-know-your-neighbor spirit ... which also leads people to get active on issues.”

Davis acknowledges that some residents do tend to become emotional when discussing issues like the sometimes-frenetic activity on the street, but that’s part of the territory with a highly involved and informed community.

Business is good just a few doors down from Jive at the Friendly Spot, where it seems the entire downtown crowd comes, by bike or on foot, at least a few times a week. Dogs and children abound, and tables full of people order specialty beers and Mexican snacks. And yet even such a family-friendly venue — where Cuellar can be found DJing frequently — isn’t immune from neighborhood pressures.

“We make too much noise and we have too much fun,” Cuellar said. “We’re in a constant battle with the neighborhood association in the fact that they don’t really understand what First Friday is about. ”

Frequent police calls about noise at the Friendly Spot by neighbors has put something of a damper on the good times. “I feel like my neighborhood has been hijacked,” said Jody Newman, co-owner of the Friendly Spot. In the last year and a half the police have been called to the ice house a total of 25 times, SAPD records show — though not a single citation has been issued. Newman says she also frequently gets what she calls threatening phone calls at her home.

The police calls are typically noise complaints or logged as “public disturbance.” But the Newmans know the letter of the law and their noise levels are well within the rights of such a commercially zoned space. But the harassment has led to them to feel unwelcome. They say they would not even attempt to open another business in the area due to the difficulty of appeasing the neighbors. Instead, they are considering opening a raspa stand on the North St. Mary’s strip.

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