Jessica Cape, 23, studies print journalism at Texas State University, pays the bills answering the Chronicle phones afternoons, and sometimes drives back to Lubbock to see her parents on weekends. Like thousands of other young Americans, she likes the Shins, so she attended their April 22 concert at the Backyard, part of the MTVU Campus Invasion tour. Walking back to her car after the show ("They only played 45 minutes, which was crap"), she tripped along the pathway that constitutes part of the 400-yard walk to the venue's parking area, fell into a ditch, and fractured her elbow. If she's lucky, the cast comes off next week.
Not in My Backyard?
"They didn't have any flags or anything [along the trail], and the grass had grown up," she says. "Plus it was dark out there. It's not lit at all. [The last time TCB visited the Backyard, for the Pet Shop Boys in October, there were dim Japanese lanterns in the surrounding trees.] I fell and landed on my elbow. My best friend stepped over to pick me up, and she landed in the same hole."
Though Cape doesn't hold the Backyard responsible for what happened to her she admits she and her friends had a few beers at the show her experience is another in a growing list of unpleasant incidents related to the venue's parking accommodations, which have changed significantly since the adjacent Shops at the Galleria retail complex opened last year. Barry Kohlus, vice president of operations for Backyard owner Direct Events, says that after certain shows, he spends a "fair amount" of his day returning phone calls and e-mails related to parking complaints.
After ZZ Top's April 14-15 Backyard shows, the Chronicle received several letters about the situation, mostly complaining about the nearly hourlong wait to reach the parking area. Senior writer Margaret Moser was unable to review the show because she was stuck in traffic, and her bad knee made the trek from the back lot to the venue unrealistic. At least the traffic, Kohlus sighs, was an anomaly. Usually, swears Kohlus, it's not that bad.
"It was cold, and it was the weekend, and everybody showed up at once for a general-admission show, which in my 14-plus years here never happens," he says. "I think part of it was the more mature crowd, who were like, 'Why am I going to go out there and stand around four or five hours? I don't want to.'
"Of course, if it were up to me, I wouldn't either."
For the Bee Cave venue's first 10 years, its main parking area was located east of the Backyard along Texas 71, but when construction of the Shops began, it moved to a meadow north of the Backyard and behind the shopping center (see map), connected to the Backyard and its smaller cousin, the Glenn, by the trails where Cape stumbled. (Additional parking is available west of the Backyard, near Bee Cave City Hall.) Adding to the confusion, Backyard customers were allowed to park at the Galleria before the shopping center opened, but once it did, property owner Lincoln Properties began towing.
"We definitely have tenants in the shopping center, who when they signed their leases, were concerned maybe the Backyard concert parking situation might infringe on their customers' ability to shop at the shopping center," says Kristi Balcezac, who manages the Shops at the Galleria for Lincoln Properties. "So now we have some leases where we're legally obligated to protect those areas."
Some of those leases, Balcezac adds, specify the exact parking spaces to be reserved for the tenants. Others don't, however, making working out a compromise for Backyard customers to use at least some of the shopping center's parking area extremely difficult. Furthermore, although many people assume the Galleria stores are closed by the time Backyard concerts begin, Bee Cave police chief Allwin Barrow notes several stay open until 9 or 10pm. Direct Events' recent schedule has doors generally opening between 6 and 7pm, with showtime usually an hour later.
"No one likes the situation," Balcezac says. "We're trying to figure something out. We have had so many meetings trying to figure out a way to work something out, and I sure do hope that we can."
For now, though, all anyone heading to the Backyard or Glenn for Cinco de Mayo with Del Castillo and David Garza Friday, REO Speedwagon Sunday, Modest Mouse Wednesday, Morrissey May 26, or Norah Jones June 15 can do is arrive with plenty of time to spare, exercise the rapidly disappearing concept of patience, and take cold comfort in the fact that development around the Backyard's immediate area is complete.
"Everything that's been done around us that can be done has been done," Kohlus says. "At this point, our parking is where it is, and I don't see any foreseeable change unless the Shops is able to change something in their leases or [we can] come up with some cooperative idea."
That may not be enough to retain the business of customers like Cape.
"I don't want to go back at all, and neither do my friends," she says. "I used to go to the Backyard all the time, before all those strip malls and everything were out there. It was awesome. It was a really cool venue, but now it's not worth it at all."