A new restaurant and entertainment space is set to open in the former space of III Forks in North Dallas, but homeowners in the surrounding neighborhood are pushing back against the opening.
Champions Club, which labels itself a members-only high-end dining and entertainment establishment, will function in part as a poker room, which is causing upset in the Bent Tree North neighborhood next to the property.
“We think there are a lot of good uses for the space that don’t involve gambling,” says Jeremy Camp, president of the Bent Tree North Homeowners Association. “In our mind, they’re operating a business that is going to attract crime. That’s really the problem.”
The restaurant space has sat vacant since III Forks was locked out of the location at 17776 North Dallas Parkway following a dispute with the landlord last September. The upscale steakhouse relocated to Frisco to a space a quarter of the size of its former home.
The large footprint of the North Dallas restaurant space is exactly what drew Champions Group, the Dallas-based company behind Champions Club, to that location, says the company’s CEO Roy Choi.
“It checked all the boxes. It has a beautiful exterior, and we were looking for a big building that had an event space. Finding space that is both restaurant and event space is almost impossible,” he says. “The only negative about it was all the work we have to put into it.”
Choi says they found the building in a state of neglect when they got the keys: caved-in ceilings, warped floors, stolen HVAC systems and stripped copper wiring. They’ve been making repairs and plan to open the club as soon as possible, but Choi says they are experiencing hang-ups with the city. He declined to specify what has been stalled or why, but says they are waiting on securing their TABC license and certificate of occupancy.
The neighborhood association has met with city council members and state representatives to try to put a stop to the poker club’s opening, but Camp says it is unclear what the city can do to intervene. Part of the difficulty in getting answers from local officials is that the area falls within the city of Dallas but within Collin County, Camp says.
Choi says his team tried to work with the homeowners association and offered to contribute money to their fundraising efforts for neighborhood security, but they declined. In Camp’s opinion, the club’s ownership appears to be trying to downplay the fact that they’re opening a gambling space, and their efforts to work with the neighborhood association don’t mitigate concerns over having a poker room operating at the entrance of the neighborhood.
Although he disagrees with them, Choi says he understands the neighborhood’s worries.
“We understand why they would be concerned, because people that are not familiar with gaming, they hear the word ‘poker’ and they default to the image of a seedy casino, and that’s not what this is. This is far from it,” he says. “This is a membership club where there is plenty of security and where we care about our neighbors and we care about our community.”
He says the Champions Club, which had another location in Houston that closed last year, is primarily a restaurant and entertaining space that will host comedy and magic shows, offer fine dining, provide event spaces for rent, and have areas for poker and video games. While gambling is illegal in Texas, establishments can house poker play if they charge an access fee or membership, rather than profiting from the game itself.
They aim for Champions Club to be a space for everyone from blue collar workers to millionaires and politicians, he adds, although a membership will be required to enter. Monthly memberships will start at $150 and annual memberships start at $1,200. Daily memberships (price currently unknown) will be available for those just wanting to visit the restaurant, which will be led by executive chef Connie Trujillo and will offer steakhouse classics with a modern spin like Wagyu burgers, tomahawk pork chops and roasted bone marrow.
Regardless of the efforts to prevent the club from opening, Choi says they plan to open their doors in September, and they already have a lineup of karaoke competitions, magic shows and trivia nights booked for the end of the month.
Champions Club is scheduled to open in September at 17776 North Dallas Parkway, Dallas. championsdallas.com.