Open-air beer and wine garden opens in historic downtown Paris

107_Historic Downtown Paris

Bret Holbert and his wife, Sherrie, are back in the food business as proprietors of “107″ — an open air beer and wine garden at 107 Grand Ave., just off the southwest corner of the Plaza in historic downtown Paris.

107_Sherri on Opening DayThe Holberts, who for 12 years owned and operated 24th Street Cafe, took a historic building whose roof had collapsed and was slated for demolition — and turned it into something unique for Paris.

They left it without a roof — on purpose — and made it into something like Paris had never seen before, something akin to the family-atmosphere, open air beer gardens of Central and Southwest Texas.

“What a great thing to do, to salvage some of Paris’ early history and turn it into something real cool and progressive,” said Ray Trotter, who owns a gallery on the Plaza and was one of the establishment’s first customers at last week’s opening.

“I used to get my hair cut here for free in this building. It was a beauty college,” said Trotter, who was born and raised in Paris and recently returned to the city after being gone for more than 40 years. “They took something beautiful and made it more beautiful.”

Joining Trotter at a table at the grand opening were Koa Hawn and Julia Trigg Crawford.

“It’s beautiful. Somebody just told me today it was Opening Day, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’m blown away. It’s great,” said Hawn, a native of Hawaii who moved to Paris a year ago.

107_Umbrellaed Tables“I’ve been waiting for it to open for months, so I’m tickled to see the doors open,” said Crawford, who like Trotter was born and raised in Paris.

“This is my first glass of wine here. it’s great. I love the concept. When I first saw it months ago, it was raining, and I looked in and saw how this could work even in inclement weather, so it will be fun — rain or shine,” Crawford said.

Hours are from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., “or later, as needed,” on Friday and Saturday.

“Plus, we just decided to open for lunch on Saturday,” Bret said Friday. It’s a no-smoking establishment, in keeping with the new smoking ban that just went into effect city-wide for public places.

The official opening on April 11 came two days after an informal run-through two days earlier — a “soft opening” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night “so we can get our system down.”

It was anything but soft, Bret said.

“We had a huge turnout. We were slammed. We turned out a ridiculous amount of food,” he added. “But that’s OK. That’s why you have nights like that. You work out your kinks. You find out what works good and what doesn’t, and you start to formulate a system. People are coming in for the food in addition to the wide selection of beers and wines that we have.”

Capacity is 99 people. There’s seating for 80.

In a question-and-answer interview with eParisExtra, the Holberts talked about how “107″ came about.

Question: “What gave you the idea for this?”

From left -- Ray Trotter, Sherrie Holbert, Koa Hawn, Jerrika McKee, and Julia Trigg Crawford. McKee is engaged to the Holberts' son, Colt, and is a hostess at her prospective husband's restaurant, Beau d'Arc, which is also downtown. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

From left — Ray Trotter, Sherrie Holbert, Koa Hawn, Jerrika McKee, and Julia Trigg Crawford. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

Bret: “I’ve been looking for something to do after I retire from the fire department in November after 30 years, so Sherrie and I began to brainstorm. We knew we wanted to do something in food, but something different from 24th Street. Last summer, we took a swing down through south and central Texas — San Antonio, Comfort, Fredericksburg, places like that — and there are these little beer gardens on every corner in that part of the state. People come in, and it’s a real family atmosphere. We stopped in San Antonio, and there was this place on probably a half acre of land, a building where the bar was. It had a playground where kids could play, and families came in the afternoon and sat down under the big oak trees and relaxed and had something to eat and had something to drink if they desired. As we traveled, we kept seeing these and thought, you know, this would be a good idea. So we began to consider that.”

Q: “How did you decide on this building, which just a couple of years ago the city was putting barricades in front of to mark as unsafe?”

Bret: “We knew we wanted to do something downtown, but there wasn’t really an open spot like you would think of a garden, and so we weren’t sure if we would be able to. Well, Sherrie saw this building one day, and she said, you know, we could probably get that building for a good price, and we could gut it and put a beer garden in there. And so we began to ask around as to owned it, found out and approached that person. He said, sure, I’ll sell it. and so he did. The rest is as you see it now. It came from a building whose roof had collapsed onto the second floor — that was rotting away, and there were discussions about demolishing it — to this. Everybody seems to be excited about it. because it’s so different than anything else. That’s the word that we keep hearing — different. And we think that’s a good thing.”

Q: “So you came up with the open air idea rather than putting a new roof on it?”

107_soft openingBret: “Right. We knew we wanted open air, something that was at least similar to the open air beer gardens that we had seen down in San Antonio and Austin and Fredericksburg and places like that. We knew that we didn’t want to move inside and just have a place where you can have a beer and a burger. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We had a great living doing that for 12 years, and that’s great, but we wanted to do basically something that Paris had never seen — not in my lifetime anyway. So we came up with this concept. We understand there are going to be days where the weather is too bad to open, and we’re OK with that.”

Q: “It’s open air, but at the same time, you have umbrellas over some tables, and other parts are covered by a partial roof. So you can still stay open for business, even when it’s raining?”

Sherrie: “We preserved what the building was. We wanted everybody to see how cool a building it was. We wanted it to feel you were in a different city, like Austin or San Antonio or Fort Worth or Fredericksburg, sitting in open air. Basically, when it rains, we’ll have a day off. If it’s just a light rain, a light summer rain, it’s not a problem at all, you’ll stay completely dry. we have areas free to sit under that are dry, and three of our tables have umbrellas. The kitchen and the serving area is completely enclosed, as are the bathrooms.”

Q: “So, are you looking forward to this?”

Sherrie: “I am. I’m anxious and excited and a little nervous. We’re out of our realm here, but we’ll do it. Our soft opening went really well. It was just friends and family, people who would tell us the truth about what we needed to change. We fixed a few things. We are starting out with five employees. We are a little over-hired for the first couple of weeks until we can see. I don’t want to be short-handed. We aren’t opening until 4 in the afternoon. I’ll probably be coming in at 5, but I have hired a manager, Mindy Wilson, who will be here at 4. She’s got a lot of experience, so we’re well covered. We have two cooks who cooked for us for years and years at 24th Street — Bret’s old team back together and we’re comfortable with them.”

Q: “What are you hearing from your customers?”

Sherrie: “They love the feel. They haven’t experienced anything like this in Paris, and that was our goal. They also like that we’re preparing different products that they’ve not seen. We’ll try to do something different than everyone else is doing. It’s a casual, laid-back place. We don’t want it be a bar. The beer companies and wine companies said they would give us neon signs and all that, but we’re not going to do any of that. We want it to be more of a place where you can spend time with friends and relax. We want to have good food, but not turn into a bar-type thing.”

Bret: “The only thing alcoholic we sell is wine and beer. We don’t sell any spirits at all. I talked to some of the people who owned beer gardens that I talked about earlier. Some of them had been in the business of a full-on bar business before and chose to get out of it because they just preferred a different atmosphere. A guy in San Antonio said he had a bar for quite a few years on Sixth Street in Austin, and he said there were things going on there all of the time. I don’t want to give bars a bad name, but it’s just a different crowd and we just decided we weren’t going to sell spirits. We have a selection of beers all the way from light beers to dark beers, and then we have wine from inexpensive wines all the way up to better higher-dollar wines.”

Q: “What are the ‘different’ food offerings you are offering?”

107_cheese trayBret: “We have a selection of three tacos — pulled pork, brisket tacos, and fish tacos. We have quesadillas, garlic fries, cheese tray with fries, a selection of cheeses, and a selection of fresh fruits.

We have various sauces that we’ll drizzle on the slate that if they care to they can drag their cheese through or their sausage or something like that.

“We have pulled pork sliders –  traditional southern pulled pork sandwiches with pulled pork barbecue sauce and cole slaw. We have brisket sliders with sauteed onions and horse radish, and we have our flatbreads, which were really popular on our soft opening. We have beef fajita, which is similar to the ingredients for our regular fajita — beef fajita meat with grilled onions and bell peppers and avocadoes. And we have what has really been popular — grilled chopped sirloin,  not hamburger meat, but thinly sliced sirloin with roasted red peppers, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and a greek yogurt-based sauce. And then there’s our fish and chips, which have turned out to be the “dark horse.” They were crazy popular at our soft opening. We serve three nice filets of fish with a nice generous helping of french fries. We make our own jalapena tartar sauce in house.

“Our nachos also are real popular. We have regular nachos with  cheese and peppers, and then we have pulled pork and brisket and chicken. Our wings — we have three different wing sauces.

“We have a traditional, what you would call a buffalo sauce; a sweet chili pepper sauce; and a pepper sauce called Chef Perry sauce, a gift from chef Michael Perry at Bois d’Arc.

“And then one of our things we’re really excited about — a black and bluebell float. It’s Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, and then over that we pour Shiner Bohemian black beer. If you’ve never had it, it sounds kind of strange, but if you ever taste it, you’ll love it and you’ll have it again. It’s really, really good.

“On our kids’ menu, we have chicken strips, grilled cheese sandwiches, things like that.”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

55 minutes ago

PISD weighs ‘phone doctor’ program for employees

PISD_04-14-BudgetParis Independent School District could pay $37,000 for a program that would allow employees to call a hotline and talk to a doctor.

“For those of us who have had to go to a high-deductible plan, this is an affordable alternative,” Business Manager Tish Holleman said. “If you use it appropriately, it can save you money.”

The program, offered through an insurance cooperative PISD belongs to, is called MD Live. Rather than make a trip to a doctor out of network or the emergency room after hours, patients or parents could call in for routine problems such as sinus and ear infections.

“If it’s some oddball thing, they’re going to say, ‘Go to the doctor,’” Holleman said.

The district can purchase it for all employees at $5 per person per month at a cost of $37,440, or make it available to individuals for $10 per month.

Trustee Dr. Bert Strom asked her to find out about the program’s credentials and what pediatricians were on call, as a brochure said they were “local.” There are a lot of “suspect” programs out there, he said.

“This is a very popular venue now for medicine, and you’re going to see more of them,” Strom said. “We want to tell our employees this is a good benefit.”

“As an employee with a high-deductible plan, we are in the eighth month, and I am nowhere near meeting my deductible,” High said.

The discussion came as part of Monday’s budget workshops. The numbers are still in flux as the budget is a work in progress.

“We’re still to the good. I’m going through line by line to see what can be tweaked,” Holleman said. “So far, it’s an estimate.”

PISD should get an estimate of tax values by next month’s board meeting. The certified rolls do not come in until July.

Holleman put in a 25-cent raise for hourly employees, such as maintenance and secretaries, to show the impact to the budget. In prior months, the numbers have only included teachers and aides. Next month could see estimates for a pay scale for administrators.

Superintendent Paul Jones asked to see if the budget could support a new school bus, which PISD has not bought in several years. Holleman said that conversation is still ongoing, so to date she has put in numbers for a “previously loved” school bus.

On revenue, the Medicare estimate is up $25,000 to $225,000 in the working budget. This year, PISD figured it would bring in $200,000 for services charged to Medicare that district staff provide to students, but the revenue has exceeded estimates. The district plans to start filing for reimbursement for indirect services, such as administrative costs, which could total $5,000.

Warm temperatures return for the weekend; chance of storms on Easter

While last weekend’s cold front brought a round of severe thunderstorms on Sunday and near freezing temperatures to start this week, the coming weekend looks to be different, yet slightly similar to last week.

eParisExtra photo by Josh Allen

eParisExtra photo by Josh Allen

The good news is, the temperatures do not look to drop as they did last week — maintaining temps in the seventies for this weekend — however, the bad news is, there is a chance for scattered thunderstorms on Easter Sunday, with a slight chance of some severe.

It’s still a bit early to tell at what time the storms will come through our area on Sunday, but as of the time of this writing, there is a 50% chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms.

According to meteorologists with the National Weather Service, whereas there may be a few strong thunderstorms return to our area, there does not appear to be a threat of any kind of severe weather outbreak at this time.

Predictions and forecasts can change, so there could be little to no storm activity on Sunday or there may be more than anticipated at this time. eParisExtra will monitor the forecasts from meteorologists and keep you informed.

So far it looks like the system that could potentially bring thunderstorms will be to our west and in the panhandle area of Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Kansas on Saturday, moving east. This will likely put the storm system in northeast and east Texas, southeast and central Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas sometime on Sunday through Sunday night.

This storm system does not look, at this time, to be extremely severe, but could put a damper on some Easter plans and egg hunts with rainy conditions, but let’s hope not.

On a good note, it looks to be warmer — even less windy — than it has been this week for the Easter weekend, starting on Good Friday with a high predicted at 75° and a low of 52°. Saturday, 76° for the high and just under 60° for a low, and Easter Sunday the high is 75° and the low 61°, although there is that 50% of rain and storms on Sunday.

Next week looks to be mostly in the high seventies and eighties.

Keep an eye on eParisExtra.com for more Easter weather updates as the day gets closer.

By Josh Allen, eParisExtra 

Unhappy with street work, Paris City Council delays final payment to contractor

With a Louisiana company already three months overdue on a water line replacement project, the Paris City Council has decided to make the company wait another two weeks before getting the last of its money.

City manager John Godwin

City manager John Godwin

“There are several issues, and one of them is the poor quality of work by the contractor, and also the fact that they are late,” city manager John Godwin told the council Monday night.

City attorney Kent McIlyer said the city has no choice but to pay the money, which is for materials and work that was not originally called for but proved necessary as work proceeded.

“We’ve got their money, we know we owe it to them, and we’re going to have to give it to them eventually, but they were in no hurry to fix my town so I’m in no hurry to give ‘em my money,” he said.

The council agreed, voting unanimously to delay until the next meeting on April 28 to OK the $18,383.02 that McInnis Brothers Construction, Inc., of Minden, La., requested above and beyond its $1.8 million contract.

The company began the project last July and was due to finish in January. Work still continues, mostly because of a 20-inch cast iron water line that nobody has found a way to cut off.

But the council’s unhappiness with the project has more to do with the streets — especially on Church Street and East 3rd Street — that were nowhere as good after the work was done as when work started.

A local asphalt contractor was hired last week to re-do the street work.

“I’m not too sympathetic with giving them $18,000 — Because of the problems they’ve caused. Anybody who’s driven Church Street knows what I’m talking about,” District 3 councilman John Wright said.

“I feel pretty much the same way,” District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster said. “We’re still going to have to address how it looks and how to fix it, and that cost has to come from somewhere.”

Godwin said as the council proceeds on its $45 million bond issue to replace deteriorating water and sewer lines, it may need to revisit “how much of the bond money you want to use for roads and how much you want to use for actual utilities.”

Godwin reminded the council that last summer KSA Engineers — in recommending a $45 million program of work — submitted an estimate for $15 million to replace water and sewer lines and $30 million for new streets afterward.

In particular, Mayor AJ Hashmi objected at the time, saying residents were promised that $45 million would be spent on replacing old water and sewer lines. He said new streets were not necessary, and whatever was spent on them should come from other funds.

“So you’ll know what’s coming, when you take out a road, it costs a lot of money to put it back the way it was,” Godwin said.

“Now, I’m not going to say they’d look like this (on streets replaced by McInnis). This was horrible. This was unacceptable, and everybody knows that,” Godwin said.

Hashmi cut off discussion on how much money should be spent on roads, saying it was not on the agenda.

At a late penalty of $150 per day, McInnis Brothers Construction now would owe $12,600 in penalties as of Monday for its 84 days behind schedule.

McInnis asked that 57.5 of the late days be excused because of delays beyond the company’s control, such as the December ice storm.

“After reviewing the list, staff can only recommend 45 additional days be added to the contract,” city engineer Shawn Napier said.

That still leaves the company still 39 days late, which would cost the company about $6,000 in penalties. Any resulting late penalty will be deducted from the money due on the change order request, Napier said.

The major outstanding problem with the project is an old 20-inch cast iron pipe that neither the contractor nor city crews have figured out how to take out of service, Napier said.

The project is not part of the city’s infrastructure bond package. McInnis was awarded the Phase I work on water replacement work financed by a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in the amount of $3.4 million.

“The past few weeks have been spent trying to find a way to turn off valves or find the unmarked lines that are preventing this line from being taken out of service,” Napier said.

“We’ve gone back and even talked to 25- and 30-year employees in the water and sewer department — people working with the city back in the 70s — and they said they couldn’t kill that pipe in the 70s either,” he said.

Napier said he would like to end the contract with McInnis and use city staff to continue working on the mystery of what to do about the 20-inch water line that has proved so problematical.

“It may take us into the summer to get that done, but I don’t see a need for us to hold onto this contract,” Napier said.

McInnis was the low bidder in April 2013 on the replacement of water lines along East Third Street from Henderson Street to Sherman Street; along Church Street from Washington Street to Hearon Street: and on Deshong, Lewis and Stone streets west of Paris Regional Medical Center.

The company underbid Barney Bray Construction and Harrison Walker & Harper, both of Paris.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

 

Dawson Announces Retirement

dawsonAfter 26 years at North Lamar Independent School District, Superintendent James A. Dawson announced his retirement during last night’s board meeting.

Dawson joined the district in 1987 as principal at North Lamar High School.  The office of superintendent was added to his responsibilities in the spring of 1989.  The following fall North Lamar’s Board of Trustees named him superintendent without the additional duties as principal.

As superintendent for 25 years, Dawson has been instrumental in the growth of many areas: the passing of a $11,500,000 bond in 1994 for the present day high school; an addition to Aaron Parker Elementary in 1996; the state-of-the-art James A. Dawson athletic facility in March 2006; and a successful $4.68 million dollar bond election for the construction of new science and computer labs at the high school in the spring of 2010.

Dawson is passionate about his job and is North Lamar’s biggest fan.  He attends as many student activities as possible and has been known to see performances in three corners of Texas, all in the same day.  Dawson efficiently balances a $23 million dollar budget while overseeing a fleet of 44 buses that run the district’s expansive routes.   One might even find him directing the afternoon traffic, substituting in a classroom, delivering birthday cards, or extending a hand shake to one of the 472 employees.

“Mr. Dawson ranks among the top superintendents in the state,” said NLISD Board President Paul Drake.  “His service to the district is immeasurable. He’s one hundred percent North Lamar.”

An avid number cruncher, Dawson has been instrumental in maintaining the district’s healthy budget.

“When the district needs something, he finds the money to get it done,” said Drake.  “And still within the last decade, he has been influential in lowering the tax rate for ten consecutive years.”

Board member Dr. Robert White added, “No one individual cares more about our students and public education than James Dawson.  He is always the first to arrive on campus each day and the last one to leave at night; a mark of his unwavering dedication.”

North Lamar’s School Board will meet next Monday night with TASB to see what the next step is in finding a new superintendent. Knowing that it will be a big task to fill Dawson’s shoes, it is the hope of each board member to have one in place before Dawson leaves.

“Mr. Dawson will be missed by all; from the administrators to the kids.  He’s a great asset,” said Drake.

White concluded, “He will be greatly missed and difficult to replace.  It has been a privilege for me to have served on the Board of Trustees during his leadership of the North Lamar District.  I wish him many full and happy years of much deserved retirement.”

Dawson will complete his 48th year in public education before retiring at the end of June.