If you’ve been wondering whatever happened to the Metro Grill restaurant at Henderson and Central Expressway, wonder no more: Steve Thompson with the DMN has an interesting story that details how two brothers (one of whom lived in the M Streets until his home was foreclosed, the story says) wound up in bankruptcy for that deal while being set up with a $500,000 city subsidy for a restaurant in South Dallas that opened last month.

Even as they were defaulting on a loan to their lender on the Metro Grill and then “trashing” (a judge’s term, not mine) the restaurant’s interior by hauling off everything from kitchen equipment to urinals, Mark and Dirk Kelcher were working out a deal with the city to operate Delta Charlie’s Bar and Grill at the Dallas Executive Airport (formerly Red Bird Airport), the DMN story reports.

The city agreed to spend $534,862 in taxpayer money from the city aviation department to retrofit an existing restaurant onsite for the Kelchers, who were one of three bidders for the project; in exchange, the Kelchers agreed to pay $200 a month in rent to the city, along with 10 percent of sales. (By way of comparison, a $500,000 home mortgage for 30 years at 5 percent would cost $2,334 per month.)

Just like with the Convention Center Hotel Downtown, it’s easy to understand why our city politicians feel the need to plug economic holes by encouraging development throughout the city. But it’s hard to see how we, as taxpayers, can plug every need by becoming the bank for private parties, and it’s particularly hard to see why we would hook up with guys who have had so many other legal problems in the same business.

And what about the neighboring restaurants in the area? If the Kelchers are paying $200 in rent and the places down the street are paying $2,000 for similar space, we again wind up using taxpayer dollars to compete with private, taxpaying enterprises — that’s just not a fair way to do business.

I think the whole thing just goes to prove a theory I’ve long held: When the city becomes involved with private projects, we usually wind up getting burned because the private guys are simply smarter, more ruthless and more nimble than the city can ever be. The Kelchers may be great guys, for all I know, but based on their history they aren’t the kind of guys we should be setting up with a taxpayer subsidy.

It’s a five-year lease deal — any bets on whether they’ll be able to stay out of the news and make it through the entire five years?


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