john bailey

John Bailey has signed a lease with the city of Waxahachie to turn the old police department into a steakhouse and music venue. He anticipates opening the new business Jan. 3.

Plans are moving forward on downtown’s newest restaurant with approval given this week by the Waxahachie City Council to an agreement with John Bailey for the lease of the former police department station.

The Waxahachie Police Department moved out of the building in August 2018 to its new facility in the 600 block of Farley St. Since that time, the College Street building has been up for lease from the city.

In April, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Board approved the use of up to $100,000 to gut the inside and complete repairs to make the structure build-ready.

Downtown Development Director Anita Brown said the city began advertising the former police department building as a lease property last fall.

“Several proposals were received and vetted through the lens of the document that guides the redevelopment efforts for downtown Waxahachie,” Brown wrote in a memo to city staff. “John Bailey’s proposal was most in keeping with the goals laid out in the plans for downtown and negotiations for that property were conducted.”

Brown said the lease agreement will start after the rehabilitation has been completed and the property is suitable for the intended use. Bailey plans to renovate the building for a steakhouse restaurant and live music venue.

According to a document submitted to the city, Bailey may use the facility for a live music venue and restaurant with service of alcoholic beverages. There will be sales of items such as T-shirts and recorded music – and it can also be used as a broadcast radio station/studio if so permitted.

The conditional term offered by the city to Bailey is 60 months with the lease to start Jan. 2 2020, and end Jan. 1, 2025. Rent will be $1,500 per month for the first 12 months. For the remaining 48 months, the rent will be $1,500 plus 6-percent of gross sales that exceed $25,000 exclusive of sales tax.

There is an optional term for 60 months to start Jan. 2, 2025, to end Jan. 1, 2030. Rent would be $2,500 per month, plus 7-percent of actual gross sales that exceed $25,000 exclusive of sales taxes.

The city defines gross sales as all money received by the tenant, whether the sales are represented by cash, check, credit, charge account, exchange or otherwise while utilizing the facility, rental of the premises, sales of goods, services, food, beverages or merchandise. Gross sales don’t include sales taxes to be paid by the tenant to the taxing authority.

“This project is an exciting one for downtown and will contribute a benefit to downtown that it is currently lacking,” Brown wrote. “Mr. Bailey has prior success with this type of operation and we are thrilled that he wants to embark on his next successful venture in downtown Waxahachie.”

Bailey’s experience

Before coming to Waxahachie, Bailey operated several restaurants and had a 40-year career as an MAI designated commercial real estate appraiser. In this role, he specialized in hotel and food and beverage properties. He appraised more than 6,000 restaurants nationwide and wrote and taught course texts on restaurant valuation for the International Association of Assessing Officers and the Appraisal Institute.

Bailey founded the Three Teardrop Tavern in 1991 on Riverfront Boulevard in Dallas. The former warehouse was converted into a honky-tonk music venue that spanned 5,625 square feet with 200 seats. It expanded two years later to 18,000 square feet with 800 seats before he sold it in 1994.

“Three Teardrops Tavern began as a vacant warehouse when I started it,” Bailey told the Sun. “I couldn’t find a tenant for it in the middle of the real estate recession, so I decided to turn the space into a place that my friend and I could hang out and listen to classic country music that we couldn’t hear on the radio anymore.

“The place was a mess,” he said. “An ancient restroom with one toilet and sink, exposed joists, a leaking roof and no parking. Also, no air condition and no décor. After renovating and expanding the restrooms and cobbling together a bit of quirky decor, I opened the doors. I had a house band on the weekends, playing all the old country music covers. Gradually, the place was discovered by a few hip people who were willing to overlook its locational challenges.”

After a few months, Three Teardrops transitioned into a live music venue at the suggestion of KNON radio DJ Roy Ashley. With Ashley’s help, Three Teardrops saw artists such as Gary P. Nunn, Pat Green, Ronnie Dawson, Hank Thompson, Robert Earl Keen and Jack Ingram perform on its stage.

Bailey later opened Leon’s Country Store Steakhouse and BBQ in Northpoint, Alabama. After only operating for six weeks, the restaurant was destroyed by a fire in 2012.  He then came to Waxahachie where he owned and ran Leon’s “Real Fine” Bar-B-Que on Monroe Street from 2013-2014.

Bailey told the TIRZ board previously that he acted as the general contractor for the renovation on the Leon’s building, which is now the home to Pop’s Burger Stand.

According to a June 5, 2014, post by Bailey on the official Leon’s “Real Fine” BBQ Facebook page, the restaurant was in the process of negotiating a lease at its location but it did not happen. The lease was sold to Jim Lake Company.

“We had been negotiating a new deal that would have allowed Leon’s to continue where it is but we found out at noon Wednesday that it is not going to work out,” Bailey posted. “We wish Jim Lake Co. the best of luck with our old Leon’s location. I understand they have some cool new plans for the place, as the part of the redevelopment plans for their properties downtown.” 

Bailey told the TIRZ board the former 8,000 square feet police station is solidly built and has several advantages already that include fire sprinklers and modern restrooms. It also has a 70-spot parking lot on the side and 15 spaces in the rear of the building. 

Bailey said the cost of repairs over the $100,000 supplied by the TIRZ and the cost to finish out the building would be borne by him. He feels the building has “good bones” to work with for the renovation project.

Steakhouse and music venue

For the past 25 years, doing a project similar to Three Teardrops Tavern has been on Bailey’s mind.

“I regretted stopping when I did,” Bailey said. “I looked back six months later and thought, God, I really should have just stayed with it. I thought about building something next to Carl’s Corner. Truck Stop … but the cost was horrendous. I thought that I was going to have to let this go.

“When this (opportunity) came up, it’s at a time when the number of classic dance halls and music venues is shrinking,” he said. “The people that are starting out now, the Bart Crows of the world, have fewer and fewer places to play. The small venues are really the nurturing ground for new talent coming up.”

There are very few people that want to get into the business and even fewer that understand you have to show the musicians respect, he said, saying, “You have to treat them like they are somebody.”

“You may have a three-piece band that is just starting out but you are going to have the green room back there,” he said. “Your meet and greet place, comfortable accommodations, we are going to put you up for the night, give you free beer and are going to feed you at the steakhouse. You’re going to be treated like a star. That respect breeds mutual respect and accommodation on both sides.”

The venue is designed to be flexible so that it can present as a classic dance hall with a big dance floor like the Stagecoach Ballroom in Fort Worth or like a Billy Bob’s that is concert-oriented with tables right up to the stage.

The restaurant tables are designed to be broken down so they can be stored or rearranged quickly to accommodate the needs of a performer or event. Bailey estimates the steakhouse will seat about 90 people, with the music venue having a capacity of from 345-425 people.

The business looks to employ about 15 people on the steakhouse side and 10 people with the music venue.

“I am going to build up some local and regional talent,” Bailey said. “I was amazed at the Christmas parade that there were so many bands on the floats. I would hear them coming and my ears would perk up. I would hear them come by and I was like, ‘Those guys are good.

“I am going to have a mix of cultures because music is a great unifier,” he said. “It has been way too secular in the past and I want to change that.”

Bailey said he looks to enhance what is already in place in downtown so that it can continue to grow. As an example, he said he’s talked with College Street Pub’s owners and told them his restaurant won’t be serving items that would conflict with their menu.

“I want all the business owners to benefit by the traffic that is generated by this place with people coming in to see music events,” Bailey said. “I want to design it in such a way that the type of food that I am serving and the pricing does not negatively impact anybody.”

With the lease starting Jan. 2, 2020, Bailey said he looks to be up and running with music the next day, Jan. 3.

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