Harris County files suit over nuisance properties

HOUSTON

The first lawsuit over the plan has now been filed. The Harris County Attorney's Office looks to identify businesses that could be problems. Local management districts are now contacting those businesses.

The new suit involves a sports bar off Ranchester in the Sharpstown area. Businesses that don't follow the rules could be closed.

La Frontera is the first target in what the county attorney's office says is a new plan to clean up parts of town that need help.

"A lot of illegal activity has been going on in this location for quite a while," Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan said.

It's one of 20 or so properties in the Sharpstown, Spring Branch, or Braes Oaks parts of Houston under review through a contract agreement between three neighborhood management districts and the county attorney's office.

La Frontera is the first to go to court.

> "We want to close it down using civil injunctions so that the landowner and the lessee cannot use that location anymore for these kinds of activities," Ryan said.

Since January 2001, La Frontera has had its share of complaints -- 18 of them, including rape, robbery, theft, drugs and violations of liquor laws.

In scanning records for other area nightclubs, that number and those reported crimes aren't statistically high, but they're still enough for the management district to want them to stop.

We spoke to both the landlord of the strip center and the owner of the club. Both denied knowing about the lawsuit which names them and neither wanted to go on camera to talk about it.

The landlord, Howard Liao, says he'd like to evict the club for causing problems. The club owner says he doesn't know of any issues, but if there are any and he can't fix them, he'll voluntarily close.

"The management district works very hard to work with property owners that are trying to bring legitimate businesses into the area," said Alice Lee with the Greater Sharpstown District. "It operates within yards of apartment complexes where families and young children live. They won't do anything to comply or alleviate the problems."

La Frontera may be the first, but the county believes it won't be the last.

The suit was filed on Monday, and according to that filing, there is no court date in front of a judge yet.

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